I have been a fan of Bracken MacLeod since his novella ‘White Night’. I loved his novel ‘Mountain Home’, and have been waiting patiently to see how ‘Stranded’ came out, especially since I read the blurb from Jonathan Maberry.
‘Stranded’ is a supernatural horror novel and it’s one of the best novels I have read in 2016. One of the great things about this book is its pacing. From the opening scenes where we are thrust into an arctic storm to the sudden sicknesses of the crew members, MacLeod’s delivery is sublime, descriptive and chilling. The frozen setting adds to the isolation and fear that shroud the crew and as we dig deeper into the lives of a select few deck hands aboard the beset ship the pieces of the puzzle begin to slot into place.
At the centre of the story lies Noah Calbot, a man with few friends, especially his father-in-law who is also the ship’s captain. Tensions between crew members are already fraught even before they encounter the storm that leaves them trapped in the ice and things take an unexpected turn midway through the book when a team leaves the ship to embark upon a journey towards a mysterious object they see on the horizon, hoping for salvation. Nothing can prepare you for what the crew find there and this is where the book takes you on a whole new journey of survival.
Noah is a likeable character, he has his flaws but you can definitely empathise with him, especially when you find out what he has been through. Scattered throughout the novel are a few flashbacks where Noah sits at the bedside of his dying wife. These scenes are fantastic and see MacLeod pull at the heart-strings leaving not a dry eye in the house. The other characters are equally engaging and the twist in the tale is both unexpected and well executed.
There is something about arctic settings that works so well with this type of fiction. Dan Simmons ‘The Terror’ is another book I have a great fondness for and it is also one set in the frozen wastes and I also recommend ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver if you want to be chilled to the bone.
You sometimes hesitate a little when a book you have been eagerly awaiting is finally released. Will it be as good as you hope? well, with ‘Stranded’ it was even better. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on a few “Best of” lists at the year’s end, I know it will sure as hell be on mine.
Pick up a copy from here.