With regards the reviews I write, I feel it is necessary to provide this caveat.
The initial section right up to the button that opens the full synopsis is the teaser where I try to give a look into the book without revealing too much.

The section within the button is a full synopsis. No detail will be hidden at all.

Be warned!
The final section (Food for thought) is a series of thoughts on the book. This is a personal take on the book and does mention important parts of the books. It should be considered as much of a spoiler as the previous section!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Book Review: Outpost by Adam Baker - 4thwallfly

Welcome to the Fly on the Fourth Wall. This week's book review is a both a horror and a science fiction that deals with a group of isolated people, far away from the rest of the world as the world quite simply ends around them. 
It's Outpost by Adam Baker.
Cover photographs copyright of Getty Images, Corbis (cityscape).
'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...' Outpost - Adam Baker [2011]

Outpost is a horror story set on the Kasker Rampart refinery in what is effectively the middle of nowhere. There is just a skeleton crew that can't wait to be sent home until they find that there is no home to go to anymore. They are isolated, alone and the very last to know what is happening to the world they knew. Worse, the trouble comes their way, ensuring that even in the middle of nowhere there is no escape.

The story follows the trials of the Rampart's crew as these misfits struggle to survive off the coast of Franz Josef Land, a mere fifteen people occupying a structure designed for thousands, maintaining the refinery until such time as the company decides to restart the pumps.

Click below for the full synopsis (click to open/close):

Food for thought:

On the face of it, Outpost is your typical zombie horror story. There's a disease of unknown proportions that causes its virulent victims to attack the non-infected and the disease is so dangerous that it results in the destruction of mankind's way of life. That right there is practically most zombie horror stories in a nutshell. However, a great many of these type of stories start off with a happy paradise that turns into hell. This is more a story of a rough and tough place to live being made worse. It's also unusual because most stories of this calibre tend to run on the assumption that 'escape' is the good ending, that there is no doubt some safe haven where the survivors are safe and where society (with all its trappings) continues. Outpost delivers a harder tale, becoming a story of not triumph over adversity but rather a story about stubbornness over adversity. Even without the threat of the infected, Kasker Rampart is not a place where mankind can thrive or even survive without specialist equipment.

It does raise a question as to what sort of people we are underneath. We all have hidden reserves and are capable of feats we might not normally imagine ourselves doing (both of courage and cowardice, of selfishness and selflessness). This story is about people coming out of their shells, adapting to the change in their circumstances as they are rudely separated from the life that they had been quite content with. Jane is a key example of this, starting off as a priest who had wanted to matter, who wanted to be important and have her place recognised. By the end of the story she is someone who has cast away her role as a priest and become a colder person for it. She may still love Ghost but it takes the arrival of the infection to really bring about a metamorphosis. From a suicidally-inclined fat woman to one so vibrant and covetous of life that she would quite happily take 'cold-blooded' decisions. When the trappings and social net that dictates our behaviour is gone, the person that remains may be a very different creature indeed. By social net I simply refer to the established concept of 'society' and 'community' that control 'accepted' behaviour. As an example for this, there are numerous 'survivor' stories where the survivors that are rescued have had to make some very tough calls in order to live. It's a form of behaviour that cannot be reconciled with the life they return to. They made their decisions in order to live. The survival instinct is extremely strong and in dark times it clashes with our understanding of civilised behaviour. Just so in Outpost. When the chips are down and times turn from bad to worse, it is then that we discover what we as individuals are capable of doing. And we are capable of such acts of necessity.

I did like the unusual take on zombies. It isn't necessary nor required (the technological infection does not really alter the flow of the tale from that of the same story with zombies), but it adds a new element to an otherwise standard affair. Like many horror stories though, the focus is on the horror itself, on the struggle to survive at the detriment to the plot's devices. There are no grand revelations, no great understanding that makes itself felt. Even Nikki fails to provide much insight to the infection. However, one can't help but wonder if the Geth from Mass Effect were chosen as inspiration for the zombies here. There are too many questions left unanswered by the book, but this is to be expected. We see things from their perspectives and they have no reason to really care or look deeply into the reasons of the calamity that has befallen them and mankind.

There's one final note to make here. It's rather cliche but a common theme to zombie stories. There is this assumption that we (mankind) exist rather than live. Society requires conformity and jams square pegs into round holes because they must fit. In its own way, the arrival of the infection brings with it a terrible freedom. There is no one else out there to judge them, to tell them what they are or where they belong. At the cost of the world, the crew of Kasker Rampart are liberated from a mundane existence and thrust headlong into a horrifying, bloody but ultimately very vital life. They aren't just wiling away days in boredom waiting for rescue, they are living with every fibre of their being, fighting to ensure that they have that much more life.