Helen Small is journalist at the largest news organization in the Republic of Texas, and a survivor. Seven years after a plague has culled humanity in half, the Republic is falling into a totalitarian state. Survivors -- the few who contracted the virus and survived -- are being vilified by William Chaste, the new Administrator of the Republic. An army of Chaste's zealots has taken on the ''patriotic'' call of protecting the Republic from survivors, who they believe -- based upon false information from Chaste -- are still spreading the plague. When a mob of supporters murder a survivor, Helen finds herself in an increasingly hostile atmosphere as she attempts to uncover the truth and expose Chaste's lies. All the while, she struggles with her own guilt at having survived the plague that killed both her husband and son. Amidst all of the bleakness she meets Francisco Stiles, an artist from the barrio in Denver who offers her a chance at a real life -- and love.
Average citizens and co-workers become more hostile towards her and she loses her job because she makes people uncomfortable and fearful. Having lost everything, she decides to go to the barrio to be with Stiles. Tensions escalate in the Republic and Helen is attacked and then arrested while driving to Denver. She is put in jail without any rights or even a phone call. Two articles by her appear on the Republic Voice website -- written and uploaded before she was fired -- questioning Chaste and proving he is lying. She is deemed a terrorist for spreading false and misleading information. Helen realizes no one knows she is in jail. No one knows where she is. At her lowest moment, she understands that she has to rely on herself to escape. With her comm dead and charging, she drives to Denver. Chaste intensifies the lock-down of the Republic. The plan to round up survivors is announced and Helen is identified as the author of the articles and misinformation spread about Pan21. The hunt for her as a terrorist is officially on.
''McDaniel's (The Future Is Short, 2017, etc.) wise choice to set a global-plague tale in the smaller Republic condenses his epic narrative and generates a swift pace, while descriptions of characters and environment are generally subdued--akin to the 'colorless' survivors. But the muted prose is befitting of Pan21’s devastation (Helen walks the shockingly empty hallways of a Dallas hospital) and makes flashes of color stand out: a morning of 'blood-red sunlight' or a photo of Helen's now-dead 5-year-old son in a blue-striped shirt. Chaste's administration poses an unmistakable threat, monitoring citizens with flying quads and HealthPals (devices inserted in skin) and ultimately branding Helen a terrorist. A romance between Helen and her boyfriend, Francisco Stiles, meanwhile, is fleeting, though it's rich material for the planned sequel. This gripping sci-fi–esque yarn ably incorporates social and political themes.''— Kirkus Reviews
''The novel is well-paced and almost breezy, moving the story along at a good clip. McDaniel's strength is realistic dialogue that conveys a wide range of character emotions, often multiple emotions in the same scene.''— The BookLife Prize
''Focusing, as it does, on a world in which the truth has taken a back seat to fake news and hysteria, it’s hard to imagine when <i>Agents of the Undertow</i> by Jack McDaniel could have been more timely . . . a scathing dystopian novel filled with eerie echoes of the present day.''— IndieReader
Jack McDaniel lives in Colorado with his daughter. Several of his short stories are in The Future Is Short, volume 3, a collection of short stories that was published in February of 2017. His writing has also been featured on the ''A Creative Mind'' fiction podcast. This is his first novel. His second book in the Pan21 universe is due out later in 2017. You can learn more at his website: agentsoftheundertow.com