Science fiction and fantasy
by Adam Baker
It's not long before the violence flares up, and straight away we're faced with the ugliest side of war: hatred, kids dying, pointless murders, and so on. Corruption and cruelty are almost part of the wallpaper in this setting. The five mercenaries are hardly the kind of people you'd trust to babysit kids, but they're far from the most odious characters we meet. Their eyes light up when they hear about a truck full of stolen gold left in the desert that's there for the taking. Their source is a man called Jabril, a captive in Abu Ghraib with an inglorious past as a member of Saddam's establishment.
Arms dealers and pilots Gaunt and Raphael are failing to profit as much as they'd hoped to from the war. However they don't want to work with Lucy or her crew thanks to earlier experiences with them. Nevertheless they are persuaded, and soon they're all flying out towards the ominously-named Mountains of Death, with Jabril in tow.
The desert is a graveyard of buried armies and killing heat. The poisoned ground is jagged with ancient ruins, watched over by enormous, brooding statues. There's a fantastically tense atmosphere as they approach the desert site, building up our expectation of something really horrible waiting for the soldiers out in the sand.
The characters themselves are quite abrasive and battle-hardened. Lucy's people have seen combat together over the years and as a result they're a tight-knit group, but we're not sure how much the prospect of untold wealth will drive a wedge between them. And we're also unsure who can be trusted when things get sticky and they realise that retrieving the gold is the least of their worries.
There's lots of intense action, so Juggernaut is an edge-of-the-seat read and it sustains this pace all the way to the finish. It's over 120 pages in before anything truly weird happens though, when the zombies shamble in. These aren't comedy zombies: they're a new take on the theme of a virally-spread zombie plague. Individually they're not the most menacing of monsters, but they just keep on coming and once bitten there's no saving the victim. Towards the end the sheer numbers of them gets over the top, since the supply of rotten meat never seems to dry up. We are treated to various heroic last stands which wear out the macho martyrdom angle, and there are more than a few mega explosions. I felt like I was reading something that was intended as a script for a Michael Bay film. It's tense and scary, but any depth the story has is drowned out by the chatter of machine guns and the screams of the dead and dying. In spite of their foul mouths and greed I liked Lucy and her gang of mercenaries, and it made a pleasant change to have a female in the kind of role that's usually reserved for pumped-up action men. However this novel unfolds with the inevitability of a movie we've seen before, and after it's hurtled through its plot we're left without much sense of what its point was, aside from the thrill of being scared.
7th February 2012
If you like this, try:The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Rick Grimes and his band of survivors continue their search for safety in a world taken over by zombies. This graphic novel is the second in the series, The Walking Dead.
Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole
A pen-pushing Colonel discovers whether he has what it takes to battle monsters. The second book in the Shadow Ops series.
Control Point by Myke Cole
A US army lieutenant develops magical powers that leave him fighting for his life and his freedom.The first in the Shadow Ops series.
Add your thoughtsAll comments are pre-moderated. Please do not post spoilers or abusive language.