Review: First Activation by Darren Wearmouth and Marcus Wearmouth

first activationAbout First Activation

March 10, 2015

Brothers Harry and Jack leave Manchester for New York City for their annual weekend getaway. But upon arrival, they find a silent, deserted JFK, where the few ground crew they can spot have all been slaughtered.

Harry and Jack are military veterans, but they’ve never encountered anything like this.

As they witness the carnage and stumble across murderous madmen in a post-apocalyptic New York City, it becomes clear that escape is the only option—that is, if there is anywhere sane to escape to…

Revised edition: This edition of First Activation includes editorial revisions.

About the Authors

Darren Wearmouth spent six years in the army before pursuing a career in corporate technology. After fifteen years working for large telecommunications firm and a start-up, he decided to follow his passion for writing. He currently lives in Manchester, England and would love to hear from you...

Via email: On Twitter: @darrenwearmouth On Facebook:

Marcus Wearmouth was born in Yorkshire and graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Engineering. He spent six years in the British Army working on missile systems for the Royal Electronic and Mechanical Engineers. After leaving the forces, he started an engineering consultancy specialising in structural subsidence. Marcus loves spending time with his two wonderful children, Andrew and George. He currently resides in Harrogate, England, and is secretly a very gifted bagpiper. -

My Thoughts

[Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.]

First Activation has really strong premise that gets saddled with some middling characterization and improbable behaviors by its leads. Now, that said, I mostly enjoyed the book and found it to be a pretty effective page-turner that could have benefited from a deeper content edit, despite shaking my head a few times and second-guessing certain actions throughout the story.

The Wearmouths craft a fun little survival story about two Brits heading to New York for vacation, but suddenly find themselves thrust into an apocalyptic scenario upon landing. JFK Airport and the surrounding area are lifeless and the dead bodies are piling up. A sort-of plague compels people to kill one person and then commit suicide, in a twisted bit of 'get one, give one' horror show. I found it to be a really inventive hook, and it's a refreshing change of pace from the usual zombie fare that most apocalypses seem to involve nowadays. It's the kind of premise that instills an automatic distrust of other survivors and keep the tension high.

The two Brits, Jack and Harry, find others survivors to aid them, but they never truly feel like the fish out of water that they are. Imagine being stuck in a foreign land, surrounded by suddenly crazed, homicidal, suicidal maniacs, and being completely lost. Honestly, that would frighten the hell out of me, but Jack and Harry never seem to be put out by the situation. The narration is told through first-person, so we also never get into any of the other character's heads and can only guess at their emotional states and motivations, which makes things a bit more frustrating. There are casualties that hit pretty close to home, too, but nobody seems bothered by that either, as character behaviors spin on a dime to suit the plot, rather than being an organic change or deeply explored and rooted within the story.

Despite this, I still wanted to know what the heck was happening. I had questions and I wanted answers. How did this apocalypse begin, who was behind it, and why? The high concept of the story was enough to keep me reading, even while some other aspects of the story and its cast felt a bit ham-fisted and poorly thought out. I wanted to know what was coming next, and for that I have to give the authors their due.

Overall, this is a pretty solid two-star read (meaning "it was OK" on the Goodreads scale), hampered by the questionable motives and actions of its cast, which can sometimes be ridiculously inexplicable.

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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