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Stranded: A Novel Hardcover – October 4, 2016
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“Stranded is a genre-transcending triumph, proof that horror isn’t about blobs-in-the-basement (a.k.a., the gore that bores), it’s about what’s real (really) inside us all, and the pressure cooker of circumstances that brings that – all that – to the surface. With this book, Bracken MacLeod steps squarely into the highest rank of writers as he takes risks others couldn’t hope to conceptualize ... and magically makes them work.” ―Andrew Vachss, award-winning author of The Burke series
"Stranded puts a chill deep into your bones from the first chapter, and that chill stays with you until the end. It's an eerie arctic adventure tale in which the frozen wilderness is so tellingly realized that it becomes alive and relentlessly dangerous. Bracken MacLeod is a powerful writer, and this mind-bending novel of madness is his strongest work yet. Read it, but wear a warm sweater and huddle close to the fire." ―Chet Williamson, International Horror Guild Award-winning author of Psycho: Sanitarium
“As brilliant as it is disturbing. Bracken MacLeod joins the ranks of today’s top horror writers.” -Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Patient Zero
"An ice-cold Arctic thriller with a Twilight Zone twist and suspense to spare. The best debut novel I've read in ages." -Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Dead Ringers
"Stunning. MacLeod leads us on an existential journey through hell that moves smoothly from unease to horror, finding every emotional beat and giving full measure to each human hope and fear." -Dana Cameron, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity award winning author
"The work of a master storyteller at the top of his game. You'll smell the ocean air, hear the waves as they slap against the hull, and experience the white-knuckle terror of trying to survive in the face of the unknown. If Bracken MacLeod can't scare you, you're already dead!" -Nicholas Kaufmann, author of Die And Stay Dead
"A smart, surprisingly-moving, first-rate thriller that chucks Martin Cruz Smith's Polar Star down a Twilight-Zone-esque rabbit role." -Paul Tremblay, author of The Little Sleep
"From the very first storm at sea, MacLeod grabs you by the throat. A must read for thriller fans from a remarkable new talent!" -Nate Kenyon, author of Day One
About the Author
BRACKEN MACLEOD is the author of Mountain Home and White Knight. His short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including, Shock Totem, LampLight, ThugLit, and Splatterpunk. He has worked as a trial attorney, philosophy instructor, and martial arts teacher. He lives in New England with his wife and son, where he is at work on his next novel.
Top customer reviews
Macleod sets the hook deep with a large cast of well-drawn characters and intriguing subplots. When the twist hits, even the most astute reader will not see it coming. What follows is a look into the hearts and minds of the characters to see how far they will go to get what they want. Or get back what they've lost. This one is not to be missed.
Noah Cabot is a merchant seaman in an increasingly bad situation. First he finds himself assigned to a PSV (Platform Supply Vehicle) ship called the Arctic Promise, delivering supplies to an oil drilling platform - the Niflheim - positioned well above the Arctic Circle. The captain of the Arctic Promise - the "Old Man" to the crew - is one William Brewster. Who happens to be Noah's father-in-law. And who hates Noah with a passionate intensity leavened only slightly by a thick layer of open contempt. Then, when the ship runs into a storm and navigation becomes difficult, other problems suddenly manifest in the form of crewmen experiencing strange headaches and fatigue and various systems on the ship beginning to malfunction. And if that weren't worrisome enough, things take a dramatic turn for the worse when the Promise becomes suddenly and inexplicably beset by ice, thick "second-year" pack ice, the kind that normally takes a year without thawing to build up. In short order, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves stranded, unable to free themselves, and unable to call for assistance.
I can't say much more about the plot without going into spoiler territory, and a lot of Stranded is a matter of discoveries and revelations. And there is a lot more to their situation as Noah discovers when he sets out with a group to try and reach something they spot on the frozen horizon, something they hope will provide shelter or supplies or possibly even a means of calling for help but turns out to be... nothing they could have possibly expected. This is where the story veers into what can only be called Twilight Zone territory.
A lot of what makes Stranded work though is MacLeod's descriptions which really immerse you not only in the harsh conditions of working on a ship in sub-zero weather but also in the mounting tensions between the characters which escalate even as their overall situation worsens.
"--He drove the long-handled chopper into the ice. The flat blade made short scores in the surface resembling hash marks on a prison wall, counting the interminable age it would take to realize freedom, one blow at a time. Noah's knuckles ached and his joints swelled as he thrust the flat spade edge down in front of his feet again and again, hoping the next hit would create the crack showing him he'd reached the point at which the ice would give. But all he did was chip away a half inch at a time at the thick, solid layer. The tool was built to break and scrape ice accumulated on the deck of the ship. It was designed to combat an inch or two of the stuff, not thickly packed floes of sea ice. Still, he was better off than Henry with a blunt sledgehammer, beating against the surface with no effect. Noah could feel the vibrations of the impacts under foot. He thought the sensation should trouble him, make him fear he was standing too near a crack about to open and dump him through. But the surface on which he stood felt as sturdy as downtown asphalt.
--The breakup crew was dressed in immersion survival suits -- neon-bright neoprene jumpsuits designed for surviving in frigid water. Unofficially known as 'Gumby suits,' they were waterproof and warm, with tethered mittens and boots, dye markers, radio beacons, and inflatable bladders to keep the wearer's head above the surface. They weren't form-fitting, however, and moving in them was difficult. Working in them was nearly impossible, but Brewster insisted...
--The crew had spread out at first, hoping to make headway by each breaking away a section of his own along the length of the ship's aft section. After a couple of hours without success, Brewster ordered them closer together to attack a single spot. He, wielding the only actual pickax, had chipped down farther than anyone else, but after another hour of work and dwindling daylight, hey had broken away only a small portion of the ice adhering to the ship. It was thicker than any of them could have imagined, and the pace at which they were breaking it apart meant it would be days, not hours, that they'd have to spend laboring to free the vessel. If it didn't refreeze and reconsolidate when they weren't bashing at it. There weren't enough crew members in healthy condition to run shifts, and Noah imaged the nighttime temperatures would be as big an obstacle as the frozen buildup itself, even with the Gumby suits on.
--The Old Man pushed back his hood and stripped off his cap; steam rose from his head in a cloud. His pulse throbbed visibly under the bright red skin of his neck. Noah thought Brewster looked like he might be having a stroke. The Old Man's breath condensed and formed ice in his closely trimmed beard, turning it from salt and pepper to just salt. He threw his pickax at the ice, shouting, '**** me!' and stomped in a small circle, kicking impotently at the snow. It dusted up and blew away to settle elsewhere, unperturbed."
Recommended for MacLeod's considerable descriptive powers that immerse you in a harsh and unforgiving world of Arctic sea ice where a stranded crew is beset by the impossible and inexplicable.
The author is willing to put in the work to make the reader care about characters. He makes sure that you believe in that person, understand them. Even the antagonist of the film. At the same time, the novel has some extraordinary heart-felt moments, and he takes the time to set them up, so they really hit home.
Topping all that off, it's set on a ship in the Arctic, about as extreme a location as you could imagine. You feel the cold, the danger, the fight for survival, the prose is that good. But the book is about more than that. Much, much more.
No reader will be disappointed.