"My favorite adventure stories have always been those that cast ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and predicaments their previous lives could not possibly prepare them for. Although I sometimes enjoy reading works of fiction that involve larger than life characters with highly specialized training and superior fitness, skills and abilities, you won’t find any fearless heroes of that kind in The Pulse.
After experiencing first hand the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and living in the impact zone where the power grid was destroyed and stayed down for weeks, I often wondered what it would be like if that situation were much more widespread and long-lasting. If a solar flare or EMP attack took out electrical power and shut down most forms of communication and transportation in North America, the aftermath would be far worse than that of any hurricane and there would be no sudden influx of crews from neighboring states to work around the clock to rebuild the grid. Grocery stores would soon be stripped bare and no delivery trucks would be running to replenish their stocks. People would become desperate in short order, especially in large urban areas where the limited supplies available would be quickly consumed. Far lesser events have shown that such desperation quickly strips away the thin veneer of civilization that keeps complex societies in order. Violence would become rampant, and law enforcement agencies would be overwhelmed and unable to protect the citizens of their jurisdictions. Those who would survive such chaos would have to act on their own and act quickly to seek safe refuge.
In The Pulse I chose to focus not on the technical aspects of the solar event or the subsequent rebuilding and reorganizing of civilization in the aftermath, but rather on the immediate concerns of two groups of characters. Casey Drager and her roommate, Jessica, are college students at Tulane University, in New Orleans. Casey’s friend, Grant, an older graduate student who was living in the city after the devastation of Katrina, knows from experience that they have to get out and get out fast. Casey’s father, who is especially close to his only daughter after the loss of her mother in a car accident years before, is away on a short sailing vacation in the Caribbean with his brother when the pulse strikes. Among islands a thousand miles from the U.S. mainland and suddenly cut off from all communication with his daughter, Artie is desperate to find out if she is okay. Like any father in such a predicament, Artie Drager will do everything in his power to find his daughter, but with no transportation back to North America faster than his brother’s sailboat, he has no way of knowing if she will still be there when he finally reaches New Orleans. Obstacles and dangers await both parties as they deal with their situations as best they can; and everyone involved has to quickly adapt to the new reality of a world without the safety net of technology and organized society."
In addition to the above, I would like to add for my readers here that unlike some survival fiction books, it was not my intention to write an instructional manual masquerading as a novel. While you will recognize some of the actions of the characters as advice I've given here and in my nonfiction books, the people in the story are not survival experts and were certainly not planning for or even thinking about an event like this. The college girls and their friend "bug out" of New Orleans, and do so on bicycles because that is the only reasonable means available to them, but they aren't doing so because they were prepared to or even familiar with the term. Their older friend, Grant, does have fairly extensive camping experience and as an Anthropology graduate student, he has spent a summer doing a field study in a remote region of South American jungle, so he does have some skill and knowledge of living without the support of the grid. In the other storyline, where the father is trying to get back to his daughter, you will see some of the advantages of travel by boat in a situation like this - something I've also talked about here and in the nonfiction books.
Could a solar flare really occur that would have effects as devastating as those described in this story? I don't know for sure, and scientists who study these things have differing opinions as well. I think it's possible, and many believe that it is highly likely or even imminent. I certainly hope not, because if something like this ever does happen, the aftermath will be truly horrible. In the book, this solar event sets the story in motion and is of course, central to the plot, but I don't spend a lot of time detailing the science of it or the wider reaction around the affected areas. I purposely keep my characters "in the dark" about the extent of it, and focus on how they will meet their immediate needs and get to where they want to be. This is probably how it would be for most of us anyway if such an event occurred. Without communication and rapid transportation, news would travel slow and wild speculation and guessing would prevail.
I hope you will enjoy the story for what it is: essentially a father's quest to find his way back to his daughter, and a total immersion in to a harsh new reality for three young college students who end up in a labyrinth of rivers and swamps north of the city.
The Pulse was originally scheduled to be released on July 10, but I did get word from the publisher that copies have shipped, and now it looks like Amazon will have the book in stock on June 25. If you plan to buy it soon, ordering on the release day always helps make a book more visible on Amazon by causing a spike in sales rank. You can check the book's page here or by clicking on the cover image at the top of this page to find out exactly when it will be in stock, as this is always subject to change. If you do read the book, I look forward to your feedback, and if there is enough interest in the plight of these characters, the ending leaves a good opportunity to follow up with a sequel that I would like to write.