Review – Dissolution: The Wyoming Chronicles, Book 1 by W. Michael Gear

I’ll tell you up front that I liked this book quite a bit, even though the odds were kind of stacked against it for me.

While this is definitely a post-apocalyptic sort of novel, the disaster here isn’t EMP or nuclear war. Rather, it is a cyber attack that collapses the US banking system. Much of the story is told from the perspective of Sam Delgado. He’s an anthropology student from New York and, along with several other students, is headed to a high-altitude archeological dig in Wyoming. They’ll be based out of a large ranch, but going by horse-pack up into the wilderness to camp at the site.

As they drive to the ranch just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, they learn about a cyber attack that has affected banks and other financial institutions. Suddenly, credit cards don’t work and what businesses remain open are strictly cash only. The group manages to make it to the Wyoming ranch after having to collate their meager cash to cover gas, motel rooms, and food for the last day or two of the trip. They also begin hearing about some major cities going into lockdown declaring martial law, due to the civil unrest related to the financial collapse.

Upon their arrival to the Tappan family ranch, they’re given a very brief tour of the facilities, as well as a few warnings about wandering off as there are both bears and mountain lions in the area. They spend the night in the bunkhouses, then head up the trail the next morning.

Right about here is where I struggled a bit with the book. There are a lot of characters in this story. Like, a lot a lot. There are 7-8 college students, plus their advisor. Then we have their onsite anthro expert, Dr. Holly. At the ranch, there are four or so family members running the show. All told, over a dozen characters all have “speaking roles” in this book. While some are obviously more prominent than others, that’s still a lot of names to keep straight. To his credit, the author does well juggling them and each has a distinct personality and voice.

Prefacing each chapter of a short snippet from Breeze Tappan’s journal. She’s a family member who moved away some time previous and through these entries we learn a bit more about what’s happening in the world while the folks at the ranch deal with local issues. Breeze enters the story proper later in the book, too.

Over the course of several weeks, the college students being to learn how to live a rougher lifestyle than they had in the city, from doing farm chores and tending to animals to scratch cooking and even using firearms for hunting and protection. They adapt and some find a life they longed for without even knowing it.

As the story progresses, things go downhill rapidly across the country. Riots and other civil unrest, coupled with a breakdown in law enforcement and most other agencies, make urban areas little more than battlegrounds, with smaller towns feeling the effects as well. For some, this is the opportunity of a lifetime to live out their “big fish in a small pond” fantasies. Eventually, those at the ranch will need to make a stand to protect what’s theirs.

Make no mistake, there’s a lot that happens in this book, and this is just the first in what I expect will be a series (as indicated by the Book 1 part of the title). The paperback copy runs just shy of 400 pages and the author packs a ton of story into those pages. Toward the end, I was reminded of the movie Speed (1994). I remember when my wife and I saw that film, there were at least a few times where we thought the movie was over, but then there was still more to come. Same thing here. There are several points where the story could have logically ended, but the author tacked on even more. This isn’t a gripe at all, just an observation.

Overall, like I said at the outset, I liked the book. The author is great with descriptions and putting the reader into the story. I could have done with fewer characters and there were a couple of plot developments I didn’t care for. But at the same time, I felt this was a “truer” story than much of what passes for prepper/survival fiction these days. No bottomless bug out bags, no former Ranger / Green Beret / SEAL / CIA agent who’s suddenly pulled from retirement so he can do everything from kill a deer with a homemade blowgun to building a working radio from the body. All of the characters were believable.

I have no information as to when the next book in the series will be released. But when it does, I’ll definitely be checking it out.


Find Dissolution here on Amazon.

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