Outpost by Adam Baker
Publisher: Hodder/August 2011
They took the job to escape the world They didn’t expect the world to end. Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home. But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands. The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way…
While reading Outpost, I had the persistent need to seek out a very warm bwankie and swaddle myself in it, or perhaps put on one of those survival suits used in very cold climates. The book begins like this:
“Jane woke, stretched, and decided to kill herself. If she hadn’t found a reason to live by the end of the day she would jump from the rig. It felt good to have a plan.”
I dare you to read that passage and not be immediately hooked. I was, and it led to a marathon reading session lasting long into the night. Outpost takes place on an oil rig in the Arctic Circle. Are you shivering yet? That right there is pretty much all you need to set the scene for menace. Remote oil rig at the top of the world, cold that’s colder than you can imagine, limited food andsupplies…you get the picture. When the crew discovers that a virus has decimated the rest of the world, via a series of shocking and gruesome footage on BBC, they prepare to batten down the hatches and settle in for a long winter. This is easier said than done, though, and little do they know, the contagion that has destroyed the world is on its way to them, and it doesn’t discriminate.
You’re thinking zombies, right? You’d only be half wrong. The author has created something a little bit different with Outpost. The infected do have the propensity to bite and attack, but it’s for the sole purpose of spreading the parasite that infects them, and it’s a doozy. I don’t want to give away too much about the contagion, because it’s so darn cool, and really, really scary. Seriously, like, little hairs standing up on the back of your neck scary.
The book skips around to various characters, but they’re such an insular group, it’s not at all hard to keep up. The real stars of this drama are Jane and Ghost, however. Jane has been a “fat girl” all of her life. Choosing the career of a pastor, she thought it might help her to have to hear of other people’s problems, so as not to have to deal with her own. Taking the job on the rig was a last resort for her, and let me tell you, Jane blossoms in the face of adversity (I use this term lightly here-this situation is off-the-charts awful .) In fact, I couldn’t help but picture Jane looking just like Ripley from Alien; locked, loaded, and ready to go. She runs circuits around the rig, and “fat” no more, decides she’s gonna face this thing head on, and that she does. Ghost, the systems engineer, becomes her ally and friend, and together, they’re a pretty formidable team, but don’t sell Jane herself short. They say that situations such as these bring out a person’s true character, and the author explores that with each of the crew members. You have those that are out for themselves, those that will do anything to help the ones they love, and those that will turn into stone cold killers. The contagion is terrifying, and is, of course, a huge part of the story, but it’s the characters that will keep you turning the pages. There’s so much awesome in this book, it’s hard to pick what I liked best. Is it the spare, no-nonsense prose that the author uses? Well yes, I love that. Is it the luxury liner overrun with the infected that may be their only hope, or a deathtrap? I loved that too! There’s quite a lot to love, actually, about this book, especially if you’re a fan of superb survival horror, sci-fi, and yes, zombie fans will eat it up as well (pun totally intended). Also, don’t let the spare prose I mention fool you. These are complex characters in a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and the author is expert in weaving the separate storylines together into one of the scariest books I’ve read this year. Absolutely not to be missed!