Monday, January 02, 2012

Outpost and Ignoring Faults: A Book Review

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Author: Adam Baker.

"I had a dream, which was not all a dream./ The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars/ Did wander darkling in the eternal space,/ Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth, Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;/ Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day, And men forgot their passions in the dread" (Darkness). This is a quote from "Darkness" one of Lord Byron's apocalyptic poems written in the 19th Century. Adam Baker quotes from this piece and much of this novel takes place on "the icy earth." Several rig workers try to survive in the Arctic Circle when a virus begins to spread across the world. Likely space borne, this disease spreads and spreads until even the isolated rig crew is effected. Full of action scenes, Outpost was read quickly by this reader, but the writing and ridiculous pacing sapped some of the believablity from the pages. As well, the final sequence was taken directly from James Cameron's Aliens. This reviewer is still ambivalent about whether to recommend this novel or not.

The story begins with several oil rig workers on the doomed Kaskar Rampart. This tale starts with about a dozen characters, but a fallen meteorite promises a quick death and infection. Soon, the Captain of the rig, Rawlins, is infected and shortly thereafter events stay action packed. Plot device after plot device ensures there is action on every single page. A cruise liner crashes into Rampart, scientists need rescue, a mazelike bunker promises secrets, zombies walk about the ice, a crew worker is not who seems to be and on and on. There are endless plot devices to keep the reader interested; however, believability will be lost at about the midpoint of the book.

The characters are too numerous to name. Yet, Jane is at the center of much of the book. She begins as an overweight priest, but at some point she changes into a flamethrowing protagonist like Ripley in the aforementioned Aliens. Her transformation from a woman with low self esteem and loneliness issues to full on hero is just another plot device or character arc that has to be ignored in order to keep reading. Ghost is a self-sufficient engineer of sorts who turns many of the chaotic action sequences into something less dangerous. He offers hope with his technical skills. Punch is a minor character who is fighting for the right side, while Nail and his group of weightlifting buddies fight for darker more murderous forces. Finally, Nikki is a rescued scientist who is apparently being manipulated by more powerful forces. Her ability to transport from Europe back to the Arctic Circle in the blink of an eye is another piece of writing that you will have to bury in order to finish the novel.

In regards to Baker's writing, this author likes short choppy sentences. As well, grammar is often forgotten. In its place are one word sentences or lists of nouns that are supposed to be sentences. At the very least, a sentence needs a subject and a verb. Baker throws many writing conventions out the window in favour of small paragraphs and an overuse of declaritive sentences. Another critique would involve pacing. The pacing can basically be described as full throttle all the time. There is no room for pause or reflection. There is simply another action sequence on the horizon. This means there is no room for much in the way of characterizations. Everything is in the immediate explosive moment! And overall, with all the action sequences, the novel's direction comes into question. Where is the writing hoping to take the reader? This critic cannot answer that question and Baker's ending does not try to answer this question and many others.

Finally, this writing element has to be mentioned and expanded on; the final fifty pages are like a rewrite of Cameron's Aliens. Jane plays Ripley, flamethrower in hand. She uses a watch and flares to time her descent into the antagonist's alien like lair in search of her friends. Baker, whether intentionally or subconsciously, is relating Cameron's final act almost verbatim. Jane now sets about rescuing character's stuck to walls like Newt from the 1986 film. Other villains serve Nikki's bidding like the alien creatures serve the final egg laying alien. And the coincidences only continue. At least a reimagining of Cameron's work was in order.

This critic is still unsure as to whether to recommend Outpost to others or not. Seeing as there are so many excellent zombie fiction and apocalyptic novels out there, this reviewer might be inclined to move you towards David Moody's Autumn: Purification or others. Admittedly, this novel is a quick read but the novel is unpolished and there could have been at least one more draft written for Outpost before it was published. Readers going into the novel will also have to suspend belief for long periods of time as noted by Layers of Thought: "[this] sort of enjoyable as long as you can suspend disbelief and ignore things in the plot which seem to make little or no sense." Nikki reappears two chapters later back at rampart after being at sea for 15 plus days! Get used to this plot hole and others if you pick this novel up for a read.

Overall: 6 out of 10 (writing issues crop up here and there, plot holes, unbelievable action, no direction, interesting setting, exciting, lots of plot devices).

*this title released August 4th, 2011.

Another review of Outpost is available at Layers of Thought:

A Layers of Thought Review for Outpost

Read Lord Byron's "Darkness" in full here:

Darkness in Full at Strickling

Author Adam Baker's webpage is here:

The Dark Outpost Blogspt (Baker)

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