Unstoppable: Juggernaut

5 Feb

I thought I’d turn away from the classics to more modern fare in this post, specifically the advance copy of Adam Baker’s Juggernaut that I recently managed to get my hands on. You may have already come across Baker’s debut novel Outpost, which told a tale of humans struggling to survive as the world collapsed around them as the result of a plague that turned most people into zombie-like creatures. That book was set in the present day in a cold climate, whilst in this novel Baker goes a bit further south, to the remote deserts of north Iraq, and back a few years, to 2005. In many ways Juggernaut is a ‘prequel’ of sorts to Outpost. It starts out as a thriller/war story, with a bunch of mercenaries on the hunt for gold in the desert. But, in a similar vein to Aliens, Dog Soldiers and 28 Days Later, these ‘professionals’ soon come upon a situation out of their very worst nightmares. They discover that they aren’t the only occupants of the desert valley and that the ancient citadel that they are looking for houses not only Saddam’s fabled treasure but also an army of enemies that quite literally won’t stay dead…

What I like about Baker is his ability to drop hints during the early chapters that something is very wrong, thereby ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels before he really cuts loose. It helps that the setting as described by Baker is recognizably the world that we live in today – it is science fiction and horror only in terms of the concepts and underlying plot rather than the characters, dialogue and background, which all feel frighteningly real. You get the sense that the horrors that Baker is describing really could happen – and perhaps are happening – somewhere in the world. The main characters are the source of the tension and antagonism just as much as the unearthly foes that they come up against – each one is painted carefully rather than just being the token ‘men in red’ or cannon fodder for the movie monsters. I tend to think of Juggernaut as a film as much as a book because – and this is not a criticism – I feel like I’ve seen this all before. Baker utilizes the classic elements of a dozen horror and science fiction films but does so in his own highly original way. For this reason I suspect that Juggernaut will appeal to die-hard horror fans without alienating those who are more unfamiliar with the genre.

There’s just space to mention a couple of other new releases, including a book, a film and a graphic novel, that I’ve come across recently. A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood may be a useful antidote to the anyone feeling a little thirsty after spending time in the desert environment of Juggernaut. A thick layer of snow hides the sins of a creepy rural village in Littlewood’s chilly debut novel, a confident, claustrophobic tale of a mother and son cut off from the world by the weather, drawn into an icy community with secrets to tell. Lovecraft fans will be thrilled with Alan Moore’s graphic novel Neonomican. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman‘s creator is on top form here, spinning a taut and hugely disturbing tale of modern-day Lovecraftian horror, ably abetted by artist Jacen Burrow’s twisted rendering of the Cthulhu mythos. Lastly, I was recently  pleased to note the DVD release of a film that I loved watching at the cinema: Andre Ovredal’s Troll Hunter. In the great tradition of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, this is a superb entry in the found-footage genre, as funny as it is scary and thought-provoking. The premise is that trolls exist and that the Norwegian government wants them kept secret, employing a team of troll hunters to manage them. This has been kept secret  until one world-weary hunter decides to let the world know what’s been going on. Hopefully this little bunch should keep you all occupied until my next post!

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2 Responses to “Unstoppable: Juggernaut”

  1. lithicbee February 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I was not familiar with Adam Baker, but it sounds like I need to check his books out. Thanks for the heads up and really well-written review.

    • anilbalan February 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks a lot, I’m sure you’ll like his work 🙂

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