Author: Robert Brumm
Published: 2011 – 2013
Genre: Science Fiction
Selected By: Lady Esbe
Lady Esbe’s Score:
“Howard Bell thought he hit rock-bottom the day he returned to his former employer with a loaded gun. Instead of putting a scare into his ex-boss as he intended, things quickly get out of hand, and he kills five people. Howard is sentenced to life at an experimental prison camp off the coast of Antarctica, and he soon learns the true definition of ‘rock bottom.’
Prison life at the remote island involves back-breaking work in the illegal mine run by the corrupt warden and his abusive guards. After a mysterious object is discovered deep in the mine, the inmates and staff start dying from an unknown infection. Howard is lucky to find himself one of the few survivors immune to the pathogen, but he and his fellow inmates learn something far more sinister and terrifying also has emerged from the mine. The truly lucky ones are already dead.” – from the Amazon summary.
Lady Esbe’s Review
This review includes all of the following works in this series:
Let me preface this review by saying this is one of those lovely free reads you get emails about from various sources. I went crazy and was picking a book a day there for a while, until I started reading some of them and finding out how dreadful they really are. This book was a pleasant surprise. It is a quick read and I was constantly wondering what could possibly happen next to our protagonist and his cohorts.
Initially, I didn’t feel one way or the other for Howard. He was a drunk who went off the deep end and killed several people. The court system sent him to what basically amounted to Australia (for those of you who didn’t know, Australia was founded as a prison colony), but much more unpleasant. As, his prison was in Antarctica. As with most prisons, he had to find his way through the bullying and prison politics. However, Howard’s ineptitude shows that he’s truly not a hardened criminal, just a guy who let alcohol fuel his actions and ended up in prison with a lot that could eat him for breakfast.
While bumbling through his prison excursion, which didn’t last too terribly long in the book, he made an unlikely ally. Like in most places, there is even corruption in these desolate place, when the local prison authorities figured out that there was platinum for the prisoners to mine. The guards got their cut, along with the warden. This sets us up to make the discovery of the craft buried within the mountain and all hell breaking loose. Unfortunately, the discovery of the craft didn’t yield anything good for Howard or the rest of the camp. In fact, it was decimated in a matter of a couple of days. Howard and his ally set off to try to find help and found a measure of it, along with more problems.
The author ended the first installment of the books with no intention of going further until he thought about it a bit more (there is a note from him toward the end explaining his thought processes and what he was aiming for). I like to think of movies like Contagion and you see the spread of a pandemic. He quickly explains how the pandemic began and the source, but then tracks Howard to Jamaica. Yes, from Antarctica to Jamaica. Howard was gravely injured and taken to Rio for treatment. Those who saved him and accompanied him to Rio were not so lucky, as they all became deathly ill and perished in a matter of hours. The one thing that was determined was that Howard was unaffected, naturally immune to the contagion and was to be transported to the CDC in Atlanta, which is how he ended up in Jamaica, on a crashed plane. Brumm does a good job in skipping between his current events and what led us to this point in the story. Once Howard is able to free himself from his gurney, he sets out to figure out where he is and to get some sort of help.
As I said before, Howard isn’t a tough guy. However, he did have a moral compass that keeps popping up throughout the book. He saved one person from his initial ally, ok, that would be stretching it a bit. He attempted to save the would be victim, but something else took the lead instead. He was more successful in his attempt to save a little girl by the name of Emily in Jamaica from a drugged out homeless man, who probably didn’t have the best of intentions to the young child. Subsequently, Howard and Emily were captured by the same homeless man and his associate and ultimately would have met their demise if it were not for the intervention of their saviors. Howard and Emily are saved and join a new little group of misfits that include an elderly Jamaican woman, a young Jamaican man, a teenage Canadian girl and a retired Leatherneck. But as with installment one, installment two ends with Howard being completely helpless and unconscious. But never fear, those who save him, continue to have his welfare at heart.
With the introduction of Howard’s new posse, we also see a change in Howard. While he is still fearful, he steps up to help the group on multiple occasions, as they had for him. They could have easily left him in the makeshift hospital. That doesn’t seem a likely option, when you have a retired Leatherneck in your midst. Leave no man behind is taken to heart by Dave and then the others. The group changes dynamics, losing the elderly woman and gaining a Nurse Practitioner in Soo Kim.
As the novel goes along, their situation gets worse, yet better. Even Dave points out their accommodations go from bad to extravagant as they progress around the island. From the jungles to Montego Bay that is mostly a shanty town when they arrive, they move on to a store that is mostly secure with a decent stockpile of food. When they are forced from this haven, they move on to a swanky resort that was closed for renovations that becomes their respite for some time to gain strength and think about their next steps once the hoard catches up to them. Once they are forced from this sanctuary, they move on to an even swankier yacht to try to make it to the mainland of America. Even still, once they get to America, it seems their new living situation is even more extravagant than the last two. The author has a knack for getting those who will survive out of a tough situation and into a better situation. However, he did leave the Marine to the Marine he would always be. Dave goes off to provide his wife the proper burial he promised and then is content to live in isolation on a remote island near Jamaica.
There is so much destruction in the book that you can’t help but want the characters to have some semblance of normalcy and happiness and this is provided at the end. However, in the three epilogues (that’s right…three) Brumm does give us an account of what each major faction is dealing with. You see that Dave keeps his promise and where he decides to rest his head, in theory. You see where Howard, Soo and Emily land and how they are faring in their new lives. Yet the final epilogue does open up the possibility of a new installment (I haven’t researched if this has come to fruition) and possible further dangers that the characters may face.
Overall, quick read. Interesting. I can say that only one character truly annoyed me throughout the book and I wasn’t heartbroken when that person died. I was sure that Dave wouldn’t make it, because well, the most adept person usually ends up dying for the group, but I was pleasantly surprised that Brumm did not ascribe to this tactic. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a pretty good read.
Lady Esbe read the Amazon Kindle version of this series.