Something wicked lays waiting, dormant yet coiled to react, deep in the heart of the Iraqi desert. For Lucy and her team of mercenary opportunists a chance at a fortune comes when she learns of a hidden haul of millions of dollars of Sadam’s gold. But danger lurking both subtly and provocatively soon reveals itself to the rag-tag collective, and they encounter horrors beyond their wildest reckoning.
So it is that Adam Baker returns with a vengeance with Juggernaut. The author of Outpost, which won Spooky Reads Horror Book of 2011, not content with chilling us to the bone in the Arctic wastes has penned a prequel to that novel which shifts geographical placement and leanings to an equally isolated, but nonetheless engaging and dramatically-charged spot.
Juggernaut‘s assets are numerous. On first read through one might consider its strengths to lay in strong techno-horror foundations, bolstered by Baker’s fastidious research in all areas he touches upon. This isn’t an author who can be pulled up on even the smallest attention to details. Yet, he doesn’t let his Tom Clancy-like passion for military decals and similar prevent his crafting a nonetheless chilling and compelling horror tale that pulls you hypnotically into its trap.
There are some writers who seem to think that writing out encyclopaedic military specifications makes do for fiction – not Baker. He weaves these beautifully into his prose, and couples it with those aspects of the best fiction in the genre. Such with the team of folks whose adventure into hell we follow.
Regardless of their flaws, you feel for his characters. They’re strong, passionate, vulnerable, emotional, and his leads arguably some of the better female characters to emerge from such genre novels of recent times. Compared with Outpost, where the nature of the situation has unwittingly thrown together a group, here one group of comrades in arms have chosen their partners. So the relationship and bonds are more fraternal.
I think back to the Revered Jane in Outpost, and how unique and interesting a character she was, and how she really did make the opening part of the book that much more compelling. Similarly, we have with Lucy a more strong-headed character but nonetheless a lynchpin to the collective that battles at first with itself, and then with the enigmatic terror which lurks at the periphery of the ancient temple city in which the group has found itself.
What makes Juggernaut stand head and shoulders above those other zombie-books out there is that it is establishes itself as being so much more than its competition. Evolving upon those concepts that have become almost standard fare, and twisting them into something worthy of attention; Baker’s skill at writing make this a jaw-dropping read indeed for the horror fiction fan. It also leaves you wanting more, and fast.
But to simply compare it to a zombie book is grossly unfair (though of course, Baker would very likely acknowledge its roots here himself). There is a richness here. Hints of science-fiction ever lurking, but also even greater malevolence. A most interesting aspect of Baker’s work are those things not written, that lurk ever in the periphery: a mythos building itself silently in the blackness of one’s imagination. This really is the stuff nightmares are made of.