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February 22, 2012

Juggernaut - Adam Baker

Juggernaut by Adam Baker is set in Iraq and follows a band of mercenaries looking for that one-big-score-enough-to-retire job. The treasure is gold, buried in the desert.

The style is of a military thriller with details about guns and armour and using military slang. This added a sheen of foreign translation that washed by me, those interested in guns and army stuff will probably enjoy that sheen. The language enhances the war mentality too, short and sharp and fast moving, not lingering on details but rushing into the action.

The story starts with some action then, goes back in time to explain, a flash-forward if you like. Whilst I can understand the reason is to hook people in I found this structure detracted from the tension in the second half of the novel as I knew the outcome. Yes, there's another hanging plot thread that is resolved at the end of the story but I felt the major question posed by their exploit, who will survive, is given away before it's started.

Eventually, as the plot progresses, another element is thrown into the mix, making it more than just a military thriller. If you've read Outpost you'll probably see this coming, if not, well, it might surprise you, depending on what you are expecting. As it's quite likely you're a Science Fiction fan if you're reading this then let me assure you, it is Science Fiction, on the action, horror, bit gory end of the scale. Personally I'm more of a SF fan than a horror or military thriller fan and therefore wanted a bit more SF. In fact, the ending piqued my interest the most, I'd quite like to see a sequel that fills in the timeline gap in the universe that Adam Baker has created. (It's probably in the works.)

Juggernaut is the sort of novel that I can imagine as a fast paced blockbuster film. That sounds like a bit of an insult in cold black and white text but it's not intended as such. Whether a film could conjure the images the text can is of course debatable but the story is fast paced and full of action and really gagging for a big screen explosion filled adaptation.

I feel I've been a bit vague in this review, but I'm conscious that someone reading Juggernaut who has avoided spoilers could well be in for a surprise and don't want to spoil that. However I do want to talk about it so I will.

Spoilers ahead.....


Juggernaut is set in the same universe as Outpost, but set before the metallic zombie apocalypse. It explains some more of the background to the alien virus, not a full explanation, but more details of where it came from, previous outbreaks and so on. In fact the novel is a contained outbreak of the virus. Having read Outpost some of the fun of Juggernaut comes from knowing what the characters are getting in to before they do, waiting for that first zombie to appear and then knowing that the relentless horde is not far away. Interestingly I don't think the word zombie is used in the novel, yet I would have thought that it would have been the first thought that jumped into the soldier's heads.

The extra ingredients added to the standard, trapped with some zombies story are: firstly that the virus has intelligence, a hive mind, so not all of the zombies are stupid, some retain plenty of intelligence, all be it overwhelmed by blood lust; secondly the CIA are trying to weaponise the virus, the Russians in the past had thought about using it to create super soldiers. Zombies as weapons. Interesting.

Fast paced and fun (in a horror sense), ideal for those who spend their time playing Call Of Duty.