Tuesday, 25 June 2013

‘Terminus’ – Adam Baker (Hodder & Stoughton)

I’m not so hot on zombie novels any more but if there’s a good apocalypse between the pages of a book then you can bet that I’ll be picking up to see if anyone is left standing by the end. Adam Baker’s last two books (‘Outpost’ and ‘Juggernaut’) have been a healthy mixture of the two with a thoughtful new spin on the zombie genre blending well with some fast paced horror. I enjoyed ‘Outpost’ a whole lot more than its sequel but I’d still recommend reading ‘Juggernaut’ anyway; to be honest I don’t think you’ll have much of a choice after reading ‘Outpost’…

All good things come to an end though and that’s no different here. At least I don’t think there are any more books planned here although I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong; it’s been one hell of a ride. But anyway…
My copy of ‘Terminus’ came through the door on Friday afternoon and (after brief stops for barbecues etc) I had finished it by Sunday evening. It wasn’t a perfect read but, at the same time, it was also one of those books that I couldn’t help but read until it was done. Now I’m waiting for ‘Terminus’ to become a movie (along with the other two books), I’d definitely go and see it.

The techno-virus has spread across America; locking its victims halfway between life and death while sending them out to spread the pathogen even further. New York has just had an atomic bomb dropped on it (to halt the spread of the virus) but the one man who might have been able to find a cure didn’t get out in time. Luckily, radio signals coming from the shattered city suggest that not only is he alive but that he found the answer everyone was looking for…
A rescue team is dispatched to search the subway tunnels, beneath Manhattan, and bring back the scientist. The radiation count is rising, infected survivors lurk under the water and there’s something lurking in the walls of Base Camp. Not an easy job then but there isn’t any other option when humanity itself is on the brink of extinction…

What a way to end the series! (I should note that these three books can be read in any order but I’m personally sticking with order of publication) It’s like Adam Baker has stared into the dark heart of the apocalypse and truly gets what it means. While there will always be hope, do you seriously think hope stands a chance hiding amidst the radioactive rubble and trying to dodge techno-zombies. Nope, me neither. I found ‘Outpost’ and ‘Juggernaut’ notable for just how bleak they were and Baker doesn’t let up here. If a radioactive, bombed out, landscape wasn’t bleak enough for you, Baker proceeds to fill it full of the kind of human stupidity that lends even more inevitability to the outcome. First rule of the apocalypse: Work together and you will be fine. Second rule of the apocalypse: People cannot work together, not even if their lives depend on it. Baker plays to these rules and does it with a cast of characters that I couldn’t help but root for. Yep, even Galloway (especially after what he did to escape infection…)

In an apocalyptic scenario some things are just inevitable but luckily for us, Baker really gets the importance of a good story to go along with the doom and gloom. There’s no chance of us getting bogged down in just how depressing and final this apocalypse is. Baker shows us that there is still room for human drama to play out and that’s the hook. Strong characters will rail against the inevitable, whether it’s down to the possibility of a cure or purely because they are so hardcore that they won’t give up until they are literally covered in techno-zombies. Baker  gives us some of each and this mix moves the plot along nicely. Some characters act out of hope for a positive resolution and this makes some of the twists even more powerful. Others act purely out of a desire to stay alive for as long as possible and this lends the action scenes even more of a punch (especially when Lupe gets involved). There is a lot going on in what feels like a relatively short read, just over four hundred pages but all written at break neck pace. Baker doesn’t let ‘Terminus’ forget its horror roots either (would you call these books horror or sci-fi?) with finely crafted moments of tension suddenly exploding into viscera and gore. Like I said at the start, this book would make for some great cinema.

If there was one thing that I didn’t get on with in ‘Terminus’ it was, well… not what you think actually. I could handle the revelation behind the pathogen as not only had it been hinted at, in the preceding books, but confirmation came out of a twist in the plot that just changed everything and left me gasping. Brilliant stuff.
No, what I found difficult was that while Baker was clearly on top of his game in terms of plot and characters, there were so many tunnels and little rooms (all with very little to distinguish them) that I had no idea where things were happening let alone how they came to happen there. I can see that Baker was going for a sense of claustrophobia (which he got) but I spent too much time trying to figure out where stuff was happening to really feel it like he intended.

When there was so much else happening though, this became a minor niggle that was fairly easy to move past. I found ‘Terminus’ to be a heady concoction of horror and sci-fi, all served up at the world’s ending. A great book to end a memorable trilogy.

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