Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
Tor Books, 2016
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition.
Stranded is the kind of book that generates plenty of hype and high expectations, and it delivers on all that’s promised, and more. It’s a genre-hopping blockbuster that draws immediate, apt, comparisons to The Terror, The Thing, and even The Twilight Zone: a tour-de-force of claustrophobic thrills that places the book in the same field as Simmons, Koontz, and Golden.
The ship Arctic Promise contains a motley crew of characters, drawn in vivid strokes. Noah, the main character, is on what he hopes to be his last mission, before heading home to his daughter. The captain of the Promise is also Noah’s father-in-law, and blames Noah for the death of his own daughter, Noah’s wife. The captain has no reservations about his thoughts of his son-in-law departing this world as soon as possible.
En route to a rig, the ship runs into a dense fog, and is soon stuck in ice. The ice quickly surrounds them, trapping them, and sentencing them to a frozen death if they cannot find a way out. One by one, the ship’s crew falls ill with a mysterious illness. Problems are further compounded by the loss of all communications with the outside world. Finally, Noah and a team leave the ship, and head to a strange structure barely visible in the distance. What they discover there might have them wishing the weather had already killed them.
To deliver further details would only ruin the many surprises and twists that hide within the pages. Each time the story seems to settle in, the author wrenches readers into a deeper, darker world that is nothing like what is expected, but results in a plot that is nearly impossible to steer away from.
Bracken MacLeod has written a novel that undoubtedly will garner him a wide base of readers. Part thriller, part horror, part sci-fi, and all great story, Stranded is destined to be on the year’s “best of” lists and will likely become a film (it ought to be). The writing is strong, and the characters rich in depth, especially once they reach their destination. This tale will stick with those who are brave enough to fall into the chilled, claustrophobic, world MacLeod has transported them to, leaving a sense of never having left the strange frozen world, just like the best of Rod Serling’s tales.
Recommended as one of 2016’s most thrilling reads.
Reviewed by David Simms