Review – Outpost by Adam Baker

Posted: July 1, 2014 in Horror
Tags: ,

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Outpost by Adam Baker is a book I’ve had on my wanted list for a while and after finally getting hold of a copy, I started to read it yesterday. The fact that I stayed up late into the night, unable to put the book down probably tells you that it lived up to the high hopes I had.

Published in 2011, this was Baker’s debut and an amazing start to his writing career. The book is an atmospheric, frightening and gripping tale set on a massive oil rig in the Arctic Circle. A skeleton crew made up of a bunch of misfits are manning the rig after the oil field it’s been drilling has dried up. Stuck in the middle of a freezing ocean with little to do and past lives to escape from, the rig is a desolate place made up of empty corridors. Opening with the failed suicide attempt of the rig’s female priest, the tone is set early and expertly by Baker. By the time the crew emerge from their stupor to realise that something very bad is happening to the world at large, it’s already too late. The rig becomes both refuge and prison.

Baker’s writing is taut and clipped but each character, from the self loathing priest Jane to the weed smoking Hindu mechanic Ghost, is brilliantly wrought. The points of view slip between the cast showing an array of dysfunctional people struggling to cope with survival, most forgoing moral fortitude for self-preservation and substance abuse. The setting of the rig is truly inspired, adding to the sense of abandonment and isolation, and the crushing weight of hopelessness pervades the cold corridors as food and fuel begin to run out. It’s then that Baker brings the reason for the apocalypse to the rig’s front door and things get truly frightening.

Baker’s characters aren’t stupid and make a number of brave choices in their bid to escape the slow death of the rig but the odds are stacked against them. When a ship sails close to the rig, the desire to both strip it of resources and ride it out of the freezing Arctic leads to disaster. Whilst the ship is full of the ‘infected’, it is really the very messed up moral compasses of the crew that inevitably spell doom.

The pace of the novel is amazing and tension thrums in every page. The icy wasteland of the Arctic mirrors the isolated, creepy horror of the plot and the ending is brilliantly tense and suitably messed up. The ‘infected’ are not what they seem at all (in the sense of your box-standard zombie) and the real threat isn’t the environment nor the diseased.

Like all good zombie horrors, and Adam Baker’s is definitely that, it is the human drama that is so engrossing. Stripped of all the social and cultural ties that bind us, Baker’s characters make a myriad of alliances and promises with each other in their attempts to stay alive. Similar to the barren, unforgiving landscape, those hopes are constantly dashed. But as Jane the priest expresses, you are what you do and the finale of the book epitomises that notion as the unlikeliest step up, the strongest perish and the sane unravel. It’s a fantastic journey into a frozen wasteland, taking a magnifying glass to the fragility of human nature and it’s drive to survive.

My copy
Published by Hodder & Stoughton

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