I’ve mentioned that I haven’t read a lot of horror novels outside of Stephen King, and while this novel is not exactly horror in the way that not all of King’s novel are either, I find Robert McCammon’s name to be in the same circle as King’s. For the record, I think this way almost exclusively because of the shelves at the local Paperback Exchange in my hometown, which also included Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, Dennis Etchison, Dean Koontz, and the like. So if I got it wrong, blame them.
This book is long, over 900 pages, one of two distinct similarities it shares with Stephen King’s The Stand. The other is that the world is mostly killed off in the opening pages of the book when Russia and the US wipe out the vast majority of the population of people in the world, King with a pandemic, and McCammon with nukes. Both books follow disparate groups of followers, one ostensibly good, and one ostensibly evil, toward a fateful meeting.
So while they are similar there, that’s a relatively well-worn plot structure anyway (minus world-ending event).
So a young child and an adult comprise both groups. In one, we have Josh and Swan. Josh is a former prowrestler who comes across Swan (Sue Wanda) with her mother, and at the time of explosion they miraculously survive. The other is Macklin and Roland. Macklin is a disgraced former military man now in charge of a survivalist time share that Roland and his parents are visiting when the blast comes. Roland, obsessed with knights and gallantry, pledges his loyalty to Macklin when the both survive. Josh and Swan are looking for rejuvenation of the world that was lost, or at least the deliverance of a new world that would be different from the last, while Macklin and Roland are looking for power through violence of the new, fallen world.