Outpost by Adam Baker
They took the job to escape the world. They didn’t expect the world to end.
Kaser Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home.
But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands.
The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way…
I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again, I am utterly fascinated by apocalyptic fiction. I grew up in the eighties and I think this has left a rather fatalistic streak in my character. I still remember the first time I was exposed to dramas like When the Wind Blows and The Day After. These left a distinct impression and as I grew up, and learned to appreciate the written word, I have devoured any fiction that touches on this broad subject matter. The nature of the cataclysm itself is almost irrelevant. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a pandemic, nuclear annihilation, alien invasion or zombie apocalypse. I am more interested in learning about the characters and their journeys while trying to survive.
Setting the majority of the story in such a closed environment is extremely effective. Surrounded by an inhospitable landscape, Kaser Rampart is a virtual prison, which adds a nice feeling of claustrophobia. In the first half of the story the characters are trapped in what is essentially a confined space with nowhere to run to, while waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was reminded of the classic John Carpenter’s movie The Thing. There is a palpable feeling of dread and impending doom that permeate every chapter.
When the contagion finally reaches the rig the slow pace accelerates rapidly as for the survivors it becomes a race against time to escape. The thin veneer of civility finally collapses and factions begin to form. There are those who are all about self preservation and are willing to do anything to survive while others are willing to do anything to help the group as a whole. Put it this way, as things get worse and worse the saying that “civilization is only three hot meals away from total anarchy” seems more and more apt.
The real heroine of the novel is Jane Blanc, the refinery vicar. She starts out as a bit of a doormat. Her low self esteem has driven her to take a job far away from the rest of the human race. In an effort to escape her old life, she has ended up in this remote location. As the story develops there is a genuine sense of development in her character as Jane starts to tap into, and use, unexpected reservoirs of inner strength. She rises to the challenge of a continuing existence and her grim determination is inspirational. She steadfastly refuses to quit and give in to the crushing despair that everyone else is drawn towards. Jane gets stronger and more able to cope, as those around her fall apart.
Outpost touches upon some truly dark subjects; suicide, cannibalism and murder to name but a few. I was impressed with how Baker’s writing tackled these areas. The isolation of the rig is well observed and felt very real. As the situation escalates, and things go from bad to worse, Baker ramps up the levels of paranoia and mistrust among the survivors. The psychological impact of the end of the world leaves scars on everyone, and the author spends time delving into the effects of this emotional trauma. I found it difficult to put the book down.
Harrowing and grim at times, but ultimately uplifting, Outpost is the debut novel from author Adam Baker and is available now. I can’t recommend this enough. Baker is definitely a new author to watch.