Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Review: Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published October 2016 by Tor Books

I picked up this book because it was in the new releases rack at the library and I recognized the author's name from Facebook. I knew nothing about the plot and I kinda just went into it cold from page one. This novel has the cold isolation of The Thing mixed with the descent into madness from Jacob's ladder and at times reaches Phillip K. Dick levels of Paranoia. I know that is pretty high praise but this book earns it. I just wanted to say that before I get deeper into the book.

If Stranded has a weakness the first 20 pages didn't grab me right away. I was a little confused and we are dropped right into the action. Once I got my footing with the story I really got into it. The story follows Noah Cabot a sailor working on a deep sea vessel the Arctic Promise. The ship's mission is to supply a oil drilling rig in the Arctic circle. They are getting close to their drop when a storm hits and almost kills them. It is not long before the Arctic Promise is trapped in the ice. The radio doesn't work, the crew is getting sick and the weather is getting colder each minute. The captain hates Noah and as the prospect of dying at sea sinks so does the mistrust.

Stranded is a tightly written book that drips creepy- tense moments from every pore. Every moment of the build-up of the first 2/3 of the book is tight like a rope hanging with 2,000 pounds on the end. The descriptions of the cold, heat, sweat, and fear are all vivid as hell and when the characters suffer the reader feels it. When the characters despair you feel it. I loved how bleak and hopeless this novel was at moments. This is a classic example of a book being scary as hell if you just put yourself in the shoes of the people involved.

That being said I don't think the final act is nearly as strong as the first two. That is because the first two acts building up to a major twist are so strong. I liked the final act but once the book goes crazy it is a different kind of story. The strength of the slow burn is something that can't keep going I get it. Not the author's fault he did as good a job as possible.

Noah Cabot is a good character, and we feel for him. The tension he feels with the captain and crew is very well done. I have never worked on a ship in the deep sea but those elements felt well researched.The actual prose is tightly written and well edited. The twists were not telegraphed and lets just say it - Macleod has a new fan.

This is a horror novel that works on every level. A masterpiece of slow-burn insanity and isolation. This novel uses nature and the arctic cold in the same way Danny Boyle's Sunshine uses the power of the sun. The man vs. Nature survival aspect is done well enough to carry the novel but add in the twist and insanity of the second half and you have something special.

Excellent must read horror novel that will return in my best reads of the year list for sure.

1 comment:

Penelope Sanchez said...

Stranded is an impressive and visceral work of achingly cold environmental horror with a nifty sci-fi twist, and a work that has ensured Bracken MacLeod is an author whose releases I will be watching out for.

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