I just managed to read Outpost by Adam Baker in less than four hours. It was like watching a proper horror film; the pace is quick and relentless and Baker has crafted a shocking and unsettling book that has, basically, creeped me the hell out.
The story opens with Jane, a suicidal Reverend stationed on an oil refinery platform in the Arctic, miles and miles from civilization. It’s a structure built for a thousand housing only fifteen – enough for a decent psychological thriller in and of itself, certainly, but then news filters through of a massive pandemic sweeping across the planet. How will they get home? Is “home” still there? How will they survive if they aren’t rescued? How will they keep hold of their sanity and humanity in the face of a gruesome apocalypse?
And what the hell is the pandemic anyway?
An easy read for people who enjoyed Justin Cronin’s The Passage or Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, Outpost isn’t written to be a masterful work of literature. It’s cleverly, lightly written, with short tight sentences that crank up tension to a silly degree (I might be sleeping with the light on, cannot lie) interspersed with elegant descriptions of the barren, desolate landscape in which the characters are effectively trapped. It’s light on emotion but heavy on action. Everyone’s at risk, even if they’re a “viewpoint” character – and though the characters aren’t fully fleshed out there’s enough of a sense of them and the little details of their characters for the events to strike a chord. The horror is horrible, from maddening isolation to the events on the ship (ohmygodtheship) it doesn’t let up, jumping from set piece to set piece in a mad scrabble for life that makes for a thrilling ride.
Regarding the pandemic itself, Baker steers the narrative in a curious direction that on one level didn’t feel required, but on another was fascinating. I won’t go into details but the basic set up is a gloriously strong setting for a horror, and I’m not entirely sure that it needed the extra edge of sci-fi weirdness. On the other hand it’s a very sharp edge of sci-fi weirdness that I found really intriguing, so although I thought it a bit over the top I was willing to go along with it because, hell, it was so delightfully dark and nasty.
If you want a quick, easy, terrifying read to take you into winter, or to tide you over until the third and final installment of del Toro and Hogan’s trilogy comes out in paperback, or simply because you feel like a dark and creepy read, I highly recommend Outpost.
I am now going to sit somewhere and listen to very lively music.