5 Minutes Reading Time
I have received this book as an ARC from the author for an honest review.
Written whilst working full-time as a professional archaeologist, Cross’s first novel ‘Colony’ took four years to complete. In April 2020 it was accepted for publication by Book Guild Publishing.Amazon Author Biography
Print length: 383 pages
Text-to-Speech | Enhanced Typesetting | Word Wise
Publication Date: 28 January 2021
Categories: Suspense Action Fiction | Mystery Action Fiction | Mystery Action & Adventure
Trigger Warnings: Deity Swears | Profanity | Violence | Graphic Injuries | Death
Benjamin Cross is an experienced field archaeologist who was involved in many site excavations across the UK. Currently, he is an Associate Director of Heritage and Archaeology at a national consultancy and a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. He lives with his family in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
His first novel, Colony, has gained him representation from a literary agency and quickly made its way onto the desk of the world’s top publishers.
Why are they there?
Callum Ross had to cut short his holiday with his son, Jamie to help an old friend. Soon he arrives on board of the Albanov icebreaker, at Harmsworth Island in the Russian Arctic.
He must help with a survey to determine the impact on the environment from future gas exploration in the seabed around the island. Together with experts like ecologists, marine biologists, geologists, archaeologists, and other experts.
What is it like?
Harmsworth is a desolate place. A place that the locals call The Land of White Death. The temperatures can drop to minus fifteen and without the correct clothing and equipment, you can get frostbite or die from hypothermia. This is also the territory of Ulmus Maritimus.
During the summer, twenty-four-hour days of sunlight causes sunburn and mood swings. Or the mist. It appears suddenly, rolling in from the North Sea and hugging the lowland coast. The reduced visibility is dangerous enough, but the freezing sea smoke carries a strange scent that makes you feel as if you are suffocating. And the constant motion induces a feeling of queasiness. Sounds gets amplified and produces endless wails and shrieks, echoes, and dark shadows.
This is also the territory of Ulmus Maritimus. Better known as the polar bear, weighing in at about 1500 pounds and stands about three metres tall. Therefore, every scientist or group will have an armed patrol for protection.
Who is the enemy?
Another killer is also on the loose. A lizard bird with a long neck and narrow snout. And the ability to change colour, like a chameleon. It only comes out during the mist and moves so fast that it looks like just a shadow. They hunt in groups and are highly intelligent. Watching, waiting, and then selecting their target.
The Albanov is destroyed by someone who does not want this expedition to succeed. It leaves a few scientists and Russian soldiers stranded on the island. Soon the mist comes rolling in again, and the trek to an old military compound becomes a journey fraught with danger. Half of the soldiers die during an attack from the killer birds.
When they reach the compound, they make radio contact and head off for the rescue point. The person behind the destruction of the Albanov do not want any survivors. He will resort to any means to prevent anyone from escaping the island.
In the end, only three people survive.
What did I love?
Through his descriptions, the author transports us to this cold, wild wilderness. We experience anxiety and disorientation in the mist. And we feel the arctic cold creeping up our spines. We can almost smell the ranking breath of the lizard birds. And stand transfixed with their display of colour when challenging their enemy.
“but speech left him at the sight of the creature’s whole body bathed in a mysterious light. The light intensified, spreading out into a halo until he could barely see the creature for the glare.” –Colony (Kindle Locations 4281-4282). Kindle Edition
The plot keeps us guessing. Although we know early on there are plans to blow up the Albanov, we do not know who the culprits might be. The author only introduces them as Ptarmigan and Finback. During their desperate quest for survival, nobody knows which enemy they will deal with. Right until the very end and the final showdown.
The author puts his archaeological experience to effective use, creating a formidable foe in the lizard bird. The information provided about two distinct species developing is logical and believable. And how the isolation of Harmsworth makes it entirely possible for this species to survive unnoticed for many years.
And not so much?
Ptarmigan uses a Buddhist daimoku to calm his nerves.
“Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo…”Colony (Kindle Location 382). Kindle Edition.
Since he uses this chant often through the book, I think it would be helpful to have the translation the first time he uses these words.
Should you read it?
If you are looking for a gripping suspense novel drawing you in from the beginning and letting you experience the cold desolation of the Arctic through vivid descriptions, this book is for you!
The realistic use of archaeological history to create the lizard bird will have you looking over your shoulder next time the mist catches you by surprise. And the final showdown will give you more than you can ever expect.!
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Susan van der Walt is an avid reader of genres like crime, thrillers, adventure, and true stories. On Read to Rot she shares her favourite books and quotes with you. She also writes articles, book reviews and book recommendations. She lives in Alberton (South Africa) with her husband, Warrick, and fur baby, Pixie.