Plot: Although well constructed, the plot is very similar to standard apocalypse genre formulas. This makes the first two-thirds of the book somewhat predictable, which will likely take fans of the genre out of the story.
Prose: The novel is well-paced and almost breezy, moving the story along at a good clip. McDaniel’s strength is realistic dialogue that conveys a wide range of character emotions, often multiple emotions in the same scene.
Originality: The formulaic aspects of the plot do little to distinguish this novel. However, some of the characters and settings -- e.g. the Denver barrio -- are unique and refreshing.
Character Development: McDaniel’s two real heroes, Helen Small and Dr. William Eyestone, grab the reader and energize the story with their struggles and the way they handle adversity. However, the almost two-dimensional villain needs to be fleshed out and made human.
Date Submitted: March 08, 2017
Focusing, as it does, on a world in which the truth has taken a back seat to fake news and hysteria, it’s hard to imagine when AGENTS OF THE UNDERTOW by Jack McDaniel could have been more timely . . . a scathing dystopian novel filled with eerie echoes of the present day.”
McDaniel’s (The Future Is Short, 2017, etc.) wise choice to set a global-plague tale in the smaller Republic condenses his epic narrative and generates a swift pace, while descriptions of characters and environment are generally subdued—akin to the “colorless” survivors. But the muted prose is befitting of Pan21’s devastation (Helen walks the shockingly empty hallways of a Dallas hospital) and makes flashes of color stand out: a morning of “blood-red sunlight” or a photo of Helen’s now-dead 5-year-old son in a blue-striped shirt. Chaste’s administration poses an unmistakable threat, monitoring citizens with flying quads and HealthPals (devices inserted in skin) and ultimately branding Helen a terrorist. A romance between Helen and her boyfriend, Francisco Stiles, meanwhile, is fleeting, though it’s rich material for the planned sequel.
This gripping sci-fi–esque yarn ably incorporates social and political themes.”
~ Kirkus Reviews