Outpost by Adam Baker is the latest take on the zombie genre, an increasingly popular trend in recent fiction and entertainment publications. This book was published by Hodder & Stoughton, home to several popular crime/thriller authors. However, they’ve really missed the mark with this one. The book is told in a third-person perspective through several character’s viewpoints, and to be quite frank, it’s bad.
“He used to tell a joke. ‘What’s brown and sticky? A stick.’” Did you expect me to laugh aloud? Clap my hands? Baker used the most over-used, humourless joke to progress his character’s development. I think he actually took a step back as I simply stared at the page, dumbfounded at what I had just read. It really sums up what I thought of this novel. A bad joke.
The novel takes place on a refinery in the Arctic, which doesn’t really do anything for the story. It’s cold. The refinery could have been in the desert and achieve the same level of suspense. As mentioned, the story is a zombie… thriller. A very cliche’d, zombie thriller. The only thing that differed from the old paradigms was that some zombies were semi-aware of their existence and metal grew, yes grew, from their bodies. The main character takes an educated guess at nanobots gone wrong, which I suspect is the correct answer, since the author lacks any subtlety.
The author is a film projectionist (you work in a bloody cinema! A spade’s a spade so don’t sugar-coat it!). Because of this, the book reads more like a movie than a piece of literature. The chapters are separated by chunks of text, often three to four paragraphs long, which jump from scene to scene. If the author has ever heard of exposition, he has obviously chosen to ignore it. The result is a jarring journey where you’re constantly disorientated by plot and character. Think of being in a car where the driver keeps slamming on the breaks. And you’re without a seat belt. To be fair, this book might appeal to new readers who have never picked up a book in their lives. It’s fast-paced and spends minimal time on the unimportant aspects… like character development. For those of us who have read more than Dr. Seuss, it’s apparent that the author has a clear case of ADD when writing scenes that lack a body being thrown across the room or a brain smashed in with a baseball bat.
What is the author’s message in this book? I’ve read the book and I still don’t know. Ration your food? People are born inherently evil? Each character can be labeled. Bad guy, wise man, crazy lady. The characters are one dimensional and lack any ulterior motives. Y’know, that thing that define all human characteristics. On the subject of characters, it seems Baker was a little confused. In one chapter, a character is defined as the recluse and unwilling to help anyone. In the next chapter, the very same character is taking bullets for the rest of the men on the refinery.
The plot is somewhat underwhelming, the ending left open for a sequel. The twists and turns are unoriginal and I found I just didn’t care. The book wasn’t hard to read, but I wouldn’t recommend spending your time doing so. If you’re looking for a good zombie novel, read Max Brook’s World War Z or The Walking Dead.
Outpost was a book I was looking forward to reading. It sounded unique, suspenseful and generally a fun read. It had potential, but the author has simply not read extensively enough into the genre or has relied purely upon the zombie movies he projects as a film projectionist. The writing of the novel is brilliant (grammar, punctuation, etc.), but the core of the story has failed to impress, which in the end is all that really matters.