This isn't my first foray into the post-apocalyptic, but it's admittedly rare: 'after-the-end' stories aren't my usual reading material. (For one, I generally prefer a mix of tones!) At any rate, the blurb of Outpost seemed to promise something different: the account of a journey from an isolated oil rig back to the devastated mainland. And hopefully, I thought, some coverage of what happened next - the rebuilding, or how exactly the survivors dealt with their return.
I didn't get that.
But what I did get was a very competently executed take on some older tropes. More 'survival-horror' with a bit of post-apocalyptic atmosphere! Nevertheless, it's very well done, and genuinely creepy - Baker has a talent for concocting an astonishing (and terrifying!) variety of situations in the book's limited setting. But let's take a step back from all the fun zombies and look instead at the plot:
Our protagonists are the residents of an oil rig: brought down to a skeleton crew in the Arctic. Jane, for the most part our viewpoint character, is the chaplain - preaching to a congregation of exactly zero. However, while waiting for the rig's closure, disaster - you guessed it - strikes. This time? Pandemic, but as we find out, there's more to the apocalypse than disease. Think zombies, but with metal growing through them as the infection spreads. Without supplies, the crew are going to have to move: to return to the infected mainland.
You're probably spotting a few cliches and old tropes already: zombie apocalypse, for one! Nevertheless, the contents might have been done before, but Outpost genuinely does them well. The 'zombies' are terrifying, there's little way to fight back, and the crew themselves are scarcely united. All of which contribute to the atmospheric nature of the novel.
Nevertheless, it does suffer in a few areas: however well executed, some horror tropes have simply become discredited over the years, and even zombie plagues have lost some of their awesomeness. Furthermore, with the promise of a return to devastated civilisation, it's a pity we never get to see it: that, to me, is the real interest of this kind of novel! Sadly, we never get to see an attempt at rebuilding, or even Day of the Triffids-esque outposts, so if you're looking for something that goes beyond the confines of the usual post-apoc/horror genre... Outpost probably isn't for you.
However, if you're good with a competent, atmospherically-done traditional novel - with a few unpredictable twists - then Outpost is definitely worth a go.
Find it on Amazon here: Outpost
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