The idea of deserted and abandoned underground train and metro stations has always fascinated me. Like a cache of transport history tucked away through metro travel networks, they mark a point in humanities past, and well as that of the labyrinthine structure’s evolution, that’s out of reach for many. Mostly only urban explorers, rail engineers and the odd BBC TV documentary crews get to seek out these anthropological treasure sites. Well, those people and also most of the characters in Adam Baker’s latest action-horror adventure, Terminus.
This is Baker’s third outing to address the wiry-Zombie plague. That deliciously insidious thing which made its debut in his brilliant horror novel Outpost, and weaved further still its roots into the reader’s subconscious in the next book in the series, Juggernaut. And here too, in Terminus we find it amidst a world in which the wrathful, alien-hinted outbreak has all but decimated civilisation.
So dire is the level of contamination that, as the book opens, the U.S. government explodes a nuclear bomb over Manhattan. That’s a problem, however. And not just for the ravenous hordes of the infected that cloy the streets of New York. For trapped somewhere in the network of the Big Apple’s metro is the neurosurgical expert, Doctor Conrad Ekks. Ekks led the Bellevue research team, who sought a cure to the plague that had decimated humankind.
Braving radiation levels that might well liquefy their insides, and facing down the horde of wiry-undead set on killing them in only the most unpleasant of manners, a team must go in and retrieve the Doctor and his colleagues. Or at the least recover the research that may detail a cure.
The assembled crew who bear the burden of this ultra-high risk rescue mission is a mix of government and civil-authority personnel, and a couple of tattooed, ultra-dangerous prisoners, given a stay of execution in return for assisting the mission’s cause. And by dangerous, I mean they’re epically lethal, and for the most part fairly unstable too (understandably, of course). So too however are the monsters lurking around every corner (or service tunnel, store room, air duct and suchlike).
Baker’s ability to layout a page-turning horror book, with a compelling set of dramatic – and appropriately dire – situations is, as ever, clear as day. I found that in comparison to those related novels that did precede this book, the circumstances in Terminus felt more charged, and with higher-octane bits than before, but not to the detriment of general proceedings.
There were more guns, detailed grisly-goings-on and other staples of the apocalyptic zombie genre, and make no mistake, these are carried out with Baker-style aplomb. He knows the difference between a SIG Sauer P226 and P220, and you can rest assured the likely velocity of said firearms’ discharge into appropriately placed wiry-zombie cabbage. This is a continued change of style however from those who preferred the more delicate, furtive terrors lurking on the periphery in Outpost.
When epistolary methods are used to spur the story forward at a point, I must admit disappointment that the dots had been joined in such a manner, given the delightful handling of the macro-horror back-story setup in the other books. Though here the reader comes closest to knowing what’s going on as regards the infinitely sci-fi-tinged big bad, I do wish it had been dealt with differently – perhaps in a whole other book?
Terminal marks a change in pace and style to its sibling books that preceded it; it’s definitely more mainstream zombie fiction than Outpost, and more so even than the more militaristic and short-fused Juggernaut. That’s not a bad thing; it does its duty to the genre admirably, and action-horror fans will not be disappointed.