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OUTPOST
by Adam Baker
Hodder & Stoughton, May 2011
384 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444709038


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The most that the skeleton crew of Kasker Rampart, a disused oil refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean, usually has to contend with is boredom. Fifteen men and women, including Reverend Jane Blanc, are waiting for a relief ship to take them home. But beyond the frozen wasteland that surrounds them, the rest of the world begins a descent into madness as a global pandemic of unknown origin starts to sweep through the cities and the towns. Civilization rapidly disintegrates and news reports dwindle until even the airwaves fall silent.

The crew of the oil platform is marooned with little or no hope of rescue. They have insufficient supplies to last through the winter and no realistic chance of escape across the frozen sea. And, even as isolated as they are, the contagion that has devastated the rest of the world is advancing on them as well.

For me, the hallmark of a good end-of-the-world novel is whether I care enough about some of the characters to be sorry to see them die, and in this respect, Baker fell sadly short of my expectations, although Jane Blanc, chef Gary Punch and engineer Rajesh Ghosh, generally known as Ghost, were undoubtedly the best of the bunch. The first half of the book tells a reasonably gripping story of a fight for survival in an extremely hostile environment. The setting itself is well-drawn and original, but for me, the descriptions of the decaying refinery are actually more vivid and interesting than the characters who inhabit it. In spite of their shortcomings, I was enjoying following their attempts to both stay alive and find a way home, but half way through the book, the plot executes an unexpected swallow-dive into horror cliché when the full nature of the disease that is sweeping the world becomes apparent. From then on, although there are some well-written and exciting scenes, the book contrived to lose much of the credibility that Baker had built up.

On the positive side, the story is fairly briskly paced, lurching – quite literally at times – from one disaster to the next, but, in the latter stages particularly, it also acquires some significant plot holes that stretched my suspension of disbelief to breaking point. However, in spite of these shortcomings, if you like post-apocalyptic thrillers then this will probably still hold some appeal and its main selling point remains an interesting and powerful setting.

§ Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, May 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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