ASSAULT ON SUNRISE is a dystopian novel about an impoverished America that finds entertainment in watching movies in which people, called “extras,” are literally killed by animatronic monsters on live sets. The desperate extras get a big payout if they survive. It’s a great idea.
The novel is set in Sunrise, a California town populated by hardened survivors of various films. When several police officers are shot while pressing a trumped-up charge instigated by a Hollywood director, the entire town is sentenced to death. Their only hope of survival in the new town they built and love is to survive another monster film.
The story takes us through the cat and mouse game between the director and the townspeople, and ultimately the three-day battle between these people and the monsters. Being united, veteran extras and having the contacts to get heavy weaponry, they’re ready. But are they strong enough to withstand the onslaught?
The great idea and promise of action reeled me in, and while the novel delivers, I just couldn’t connect with the characters enough to care what happened to them. While reading it, I did some homework and found out the novel is a sequel, and maybe all the character development happened in the first novel, THE EXTRA. The dust jacket for ASSAULT made no reference that it’s a sequel, so I assume it was intended to be able to be read as a standalone, so I have no choice but to judge it that way as a reader.
Unfortunately, the townspeople are all basically the same. Small town, earnest, loving, shy but formidable. There are many of them, and I found it hard to keep track of who was who. Making things worse is that some passages are written in first person, and I lost track of who that first person was. (I’m now guessing this might be the first-person narrator of THE EXTRA, which I haven’t read.)
In all, ASSAULT ON SUNRISE was fun, particularly once the action got rolling, but I can’t say I’d recommend it. Michael Shea knows how to write, but like the Hollywood the book satirizes, I found ASSAULT entertaining without being moving or affecting. But again, that could be because I’d read a sequel, so check out THE EXTRA for yourself if you like the basic concept, and then be sure to read ASSAULT if you enjoyed it.