Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
In the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Jacob’s Ladder comes Stranded — a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems by Bracken MacLeod.
Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.
Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.
While I wouldn’t classify this book as a horror, it was definitely worth my time. With one of the most exciting endings I’ve read in a while, Stranded has earned my respect as a solid thriller with a unique and disturbing plot. Bracken MacLeod has earned my respect as a storyteller with his greatest strengths lying in characterization and establishing an immersive and fascinating setting.
Stranded was disappointing for only 2 reasons. 1) It was not what I expected. (Expectations will be the death of me, you watch) and 2) The pace in the middle of the book turned slow and distracting.
The blurb I’ve included in this post is by far the most representative of the book. If you look elsewhere you will find hints of ‘ominous shadows’ or ‘mysterious figures’ and I want those blurbs to just calm down. Don’t be mesmerized by the lure of a good ghost story. That’s not really what you’re getting.
What you are getting is a beautifully written book that seems very realistic and you will become engrossed in life at sea only to then be smacked right over the head with a veritable ‘what-in-the-[insert your favorite expletive]’ moment. There’s excitement for sure, but mostly there is a fascination with the trippiness of the plot. Everyone has a twin. What? Why? What? And there’s a dead guy. And there’s this weird time-space continuum conundrum that would make Marty and Doc freaking proud!
The reader, not unlike the crew of the Arctic Promise, slowly trudges through waist-deep snow of backstory and mystery to a BAM! Captain’s gone crazy and y’all ’bout to die! And really, where do I want to be when the-old-man-and-the-sea experiences his psychotic break? Well, not on a drilling platform with a long-dead crewmate in the middle of an ice aged wasteland trying to make a run for it. Luckily the adrenaline-inducing ending helped to ward off some of the frigidness that MacLeod blew from the page to directly down the collar of my shirt. Brrrrrrr! And if that’s not great writing, I don’t know what is, folks.