Guest Review by Melanie
Buy link: All the King’s Men
Author: R.J. Scott
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Length: Novel

Rating: 4 stars

When Nathan Richardson and his boyfriend, Ryan Ortiz, broke up over Ryan’s cheating, Nathan headed for L.A. to pursue his acting career. But all those miles between them didn’t stop their love or need for each other. Months later, Ryan is heading for Los Angeles, determined to reunite with Nathan, beg his forgiveness, and hope that love will bring him home. But Nature throws the biggest obstacle of all in their path, when the doomsday earthquake hits southern California. Now L.A. is destroyed, Nathan is trapped under the rubble, and Ryan is his only hope.

I liked the characters of Nathan and Ryan, although they did not seem to have the usual number of layers to them that I have come to expect of Scott’s books. Ryan’s insecurity that led to his infidelity never felt particularly real; in fact, of the two main characters he is the least fleshed out. Nathan, on the other hand, with his impetuous flight to California, and then his regret over ending his relationship, seems credibly young in outlook and emotions. It is Scott’s vivid descriptions of the destruction of Los Angeles, the fires, and the carnage that make this book come to life. The shear desperation that comes from the inability to get to a road, use a cell phone, and even find a method of transportation when all is collapsing around you rises up from each and every page as Ryan struggles with the new harsh reality of the earthquake and its aftershocks. The author skillfully pulls you along with Ryan up the hills above L.A., now burning with wildfires. All the angst and heartbreaking moments that occur during that climb will stay with you and remind you of similar scenes on the screen during any natural disaster. Nathan, trapped under the rubble of his building, alone with his fears and pain, brings the plight of the disaster victim home, the reader empathizing with him in the dark wondering if anyone will come.

In many ways this story is also a cautionary tale of how easily the infrastructure we all depend upon can crumble. While it is clear that Scott has done her research, it is a credit to her that it never feels that way, from the National Guard, to the makeshift mobile medical tents, all beautifully rendered in every detail. The true main character here is not Ryan or Nathan, it is the earthquake and the destructive power of Nature. It will leave the greatest impact upon the reader.

If you are wondering why this book did not get a higher rating with all I have said about it above, it comes down to two things, one minor and one huge. The prologue and the epilogue to be exact. The prologue is short and gives us information that most of us already know, that California is prone to earthquakes and that the biggest is yet to come. This is all general knowledge, but ok, just a minor quibble. But oh, that epilogue. That’s simply not needed, and to put it bluntly, kind of cheesy. And not in a good way cheesy. I mean cheesy in the way they tacked on endings to the disaster films of the 70s and 80s way. As the last credits rolled, pictures popped up of the survivors along with a couple of lines of text, telling us what happened to them. You know what I mean, something like “Little Sally, cute child, lived to become a famous Astronaut/Brain Surgeon. Likable Granny lived to a ripe old age of 100. Peter Everyman died in a car accident a year after fill in the blank happened.” I believe the SyFy channel is still carrying on this proud tradition in its over the top “cheesy in a good way” movies. That I applaud while this appalled.

I would not have minded if it stated that Ryan and Nathan moved wherever, but it gave too much information about them and everyone else, more than I needed or wanted to know. But the worst was to come. That would be the ridiculous future of Los Angeles laid out here. It looked at though it was a outline for a book she meant to write but then threw it in a part of the epilogue. It had nothing to do with Nathan and Ryan, more like History of L.A., part Deau. In fact, that almost brought the rating down to a 3 I disliked it that much. But if you discard the prologue, ditch the epilogue, then you have a great tale. So yes, read this, but like an Oreo cookie, start with the middle, then the prologue if you have too and give the end away. Really, you don’t need it! Trust me.

Cover: I liked the cover with the flames and helicopter but wonder at the pictures of the naked guys. Did they lose their clothes in the fire? Because as both protagonists were so badly injured for the entire book, sex was the last thing on their minds. *Head desk*. Half a great cover. [Note from Jay: I swear I have seen that guy on the left in a million covers lately. He gets around!]