Trash or treasure? Outpost by Adam Baker

I can’t take it any more – I just have to complain.  Bitterly.  And at length.

With a name like Outpost, a tagline like “They took the job to ESCAPE THE WORLD. They didn’t expect the WORLD TO END” (and yes, the all-shouty capital letters are as presented), and a cover picture of a hazard-suited dude watching a burning city, it was always going to be either Trash or Treasure.

Sadly for Adam Baker, I’m placing this one firmly in the Trash category. Despite rave reviews from publishers on Amazon, lots of kudos from authors like Stephen Leather, and a general vibe that this is a great and gripping read, I’m not feeling the love.

The premise? Absolutely fab – what’s not to love here. A wintering-over skeleton crew marooned on an Arctic oil rig as civilisation falls to a global pandemic. The characters – hmmm, a little flat (conflicted chubby reverend Jane, dreadlocked dope-growing Sikh engineer Ghost, tattooed ex-con Nail, codeine-addicted doctor Rye: can you say walking cliche?). Tolerable, although there’s no real character development.

The storyline? Well, let’s just say, how many disaster scenario locations can you squeeze into one book? We’ve got the almost abandoned oil rig, the scientists marooned on the ice, the actually abandoned Russian research station full of biohazards, the crashing-in-front-of-their-eyes space station pod (with dying cosmonaut), the floating cruise liner (with infected ravening hordes), and I’m still only halfway through the book.

The thing that’s really tipping the balance, though (because despite all this, I can still see the potential), is the STYLE of the thing.  Every page has strings of sentences like this: “Flash of lightning. She let her eyes adjust. A seething ocean. Surging, frothing waves.”  Every single page. It’s like Dick and Jane Visit the Apocalypse. Can I make it to the end of the book? I don’t know. Do I even want to?  I don’t know. Also, there’s a sequel …

Have you read it? Vote below – trash or treasure? Or suggest some similar books that I might enjoy …

28 thoughts on “Trash or treasure? Outpost by Adam Baker

  1. Sarah 17 August 2011 / 10:11 am

    I liked this book, especially once they started living on the cruise ship. I never thought about character development, maybe he meant to make a movie, he could see it all clearly in his head but couldn’t express it? A bit like me with this comment. I’m pleased to hear there’s a sequel, I’ll be getting it out!

    My trash pic of recent books would be Justin Cronin’s The Passage; just a mash up of every other vampire / apocolypse book or movie I’ve encountered.

    But I’d like to risk recommending Far North by Marcel Theroux, I love the twist in the first few chapters, it got my attention and changed the entire impact of the story. Keeping it on a post-apocoplyptic theme, of course

    • bronnypop 17 August 2011 / 12:37 pm

      I have to confess, after unloading all that on the blog, I got to a bit where the story was being diaried, and it improved a smidgeon (more verbs, for a start). I also agree that it reads very much like a movie script. I kind of liked The Passage, but was very nervous – everyone had hyped it soooo much, I just knew it would be rubbish, but it wasn’t too bad. And now I’ll go and find Far North …

      • Simone 18 August 2011 / 3:09 pm

        Its funny but reading your post my initial thought was – ‘sounds like yet another movie script masquerading as a novel’. Seems to be pretty common today. I think that some writers get so tied up in the story as plot, that forget about _how_ they’re telling it, i.e. the writing itself.

  2. Laraine 17 August 2011 / 10:39 am

    Interesting , bronnypop. I don’t think I even want to try the book; you’ve convinced me all too well!

    It takes a lot of skill to write in a “spare” style, though I’m not sure that spareness of style is what Adam Baker is trying to achieve. I think he is trying to force tension more than anything else. Clearly he doesn’t succeed.

    One author who does “spare” supremely well is Catherine Jinks. Here, for instance, is the beginning of Pagan in Exile:

    What’s everybody staring at?
          All right, so you’ve never seen an Arab before. Is that any reason to stare? My hair’s not green. My skin’s not blue. It might be darker than yours, but dark skin is quite normal in my country. So I’m short. So what? I’m not that short. I’m tall enough to see over my own knees. Anyone would think I had a giant candle-snuffer growing out of my forehead.
          Look at that fellow there, gawking away. Face like a gob of spittle, and he’s staring at ME. Why don’t you get yourself a mirror, Spitface, if you really want something to stare at.
          A one-armed child makes a rude gesture. Runs away as I poke out a viciously threatening tongue. No backbone, the little coward.
          “Pagan.” Roland’s voice is cold and stern. (Doesn’t want his squire eroding the dignity of his arrival.) “Please behave yourself.”

    • bronnypop 17 August 2011 / 12:40 pm

      Well-done ‘spare’ is fab when it works, isn’t it? I’ve never read the Pagan series – perhaps I should start?

  3. jane 17 August 2011 / 11:52 am

    Crash and burn. Give up. There’s no point.

    • bronnypop 17 August 2011 / 12:39 pm

      Or how about: “Deep snow outside. Gas heater message Error 12. Typical.”
      Hey, this is kind of fun …

  4. Andrew Jack (@ajackwriting) 17 August 2011 / 1:24 pm

    If you can try the Ririya Revelations by Michael J Sullivan. Fantasy, but done right 🙂

    Yeesh, the super short sentences all the time is very hard to read. I think they can definitely be used…but maybe one per chapter…

  5. Adam Baker 17 August 2011 / 8:57 pm

    Damn shame. Apologies. Sorry ‘Outpost’ isn’t your cup of tea. Thanks for giving it a try.

    • bronnypop 18 August 2011 / 8:42 am

      Hey, Adam, thank YOU for reading the blog! And, I don’t know if you read the reply to the first comment above, but I DID keep reading, and got right to the end. And you know what? I AM going to go find the sequel, like Sarah. I need to know what happens once they get to land. As I said, great premise, and cool settings, and it’s definitely a very visual style of writing (clearly just not one that my wee brain is built to handle, as you can see …)
      And thanks once again for dropping by! Do YOU have any other favourite loves or hates in end-of-the-world fiction? It’s a hot topic here in Christchurch, what with the earthquakes, and now huge snowstorms.

  6. Adam Baker 19 August 2011 / 6:19 pm

    Hi, folks. ‘Outpost’ is written in a choppy, thriller-ish style. I appreciate it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Book recommends?
    If you want to try something a little unusual, might I suggest ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’ by Daniel Defoe (the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ guy). It’s a story of a man travelling through plague-stricken London in search of his wife. He observes the unfolding chaos. In that sense it is a direct precursor of found-footage disaster movies like Cloverfield. The book is nominally fiction, but was written in 1722 when the The Great Plague of London was still within living memory. Most people treat it as legitimate oral history, and a lot of the images we associate with the Black Death (infected people digging their own graves and pulling soil down on themselves) are taken from Defoe’s account.

    A couple of other books have caught my eye. I haven’t read them yet, but they seem interesting.

    ‘Pontypool Changes Everything’ by Tony Burgess. An experimental zombie novel, apparently. Might be tough going, but I liked the movie, particularly the idea of a toxic virus delivered by language rather than blood.

    ‘A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster’ by Rebecca Solnit. Non fiction.
    This is the Amazon blurb:
    ‘The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster’s grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.’

    Thriller writers like myself often portray people reverting to dog-eat-dog selfishness in times of disaster, in the belief that this amounts to psychological realism. But the New Zealand and Japanese earthquakes have been a reminder that people oftern react to cataclysm with tremendous Stoicism and generosity.

    All the best,

    Adam

  7. Elizabeth Bennett 28 August 2011 / 9:06 am

    I loved Ourpost by Adam Baker it was FAST PACED every page GRIPPING me towards the next page. The characters all came to life right off the printed pages.

    Adam should try to get it up on the BIG SCREEN it would be fantastic! Can’t wait for the SEQUEL to come out.

    I rate Adam Baker ten out of ten. He captured the cold bleak and lonely existence of the crew and the great fight for survival from some more than the other’s who were lost in their own minds.

  8. Adam Baker 28 August 2011 / 7:35 pm

    Thanks for giving it a try, Elizabeth. Glad it kept you entertained.

    • bronnypop 28 August 2011 / 7:41 pm

      You’ll also be pleased to hear, Adam, that after my husband and son read the blog post and your reply, they both demanded the book too, and have just read and thoroughly enjoyed it! Thanks also for your book recommendations – we have ordered the book we didn’t have, and are looking forward to reading some of the titles.

  9. Adam Baker 29 August 2011 / 12:50 am

    Lovely news. I’m tempted to suggest ‘Outpost’ might be more of a guy book. But, a) I know lots of women have enjoyed it and, b) it opens the whole question of a fundemental gender divide when it comes to literary appreciation. Do men and women have their own serperate trains of fiction? Most Stephen King fans of my acquaintance are women.

  10. TZH 25 September 2011 / 10:28 pm

    I had a fun ride with OUTPOST. The writing style was fine with me because I got used to the imagery that Adam was trying to convey. The pace was fast, the atmosphere made me read up just to get the whole arctic vibe.

    I was also glad that the cast was not your usual dysfunctional bunch of survivalists. OK, some may be a bit more cliche to a few of us, but I totally dig Ghost and Nail. If only I got to know more about the other muscle-bound guys. I’m glad we didn’t have some super male hero who saves the day, or some crummy thing. Everybody was grappling w/ their own issues, that made them real enough for me…

    Cheers to you Adam, I look forward to the sequel. Seems like the fight is just getting started!

    – TZH

  11. Adam Baker 27 September 2011 / 4:52 am

    Thanks, TZH. Glad you enjoyed it.

  12. michelle 23 October 2011 / 8:33 pm

    I really enjoyed this book, i didn’t want to put it down. I was looking forward to putting my son to bed so i could read it. I love having a good book to read.
    My husband has just started it and my parents have asked for it afterwards, i hope they enjoy it as much as i did.

  13. Adam Baker 24 October 2011 / 4:16 am

    Fantastic. Thanks, Michelle. Glad you and your family are enjoying the book.

  14. emanuel 5 April 2012 / 6:02 am

    Amazing book! Made me stay up all night just to finish reading it. Loved how elizabeth rye was portrayed. Its sad though tht she died (well, infected to be exact and still ‘alive’ in the end). Anyway, looking forward to the sequel, can’t wait to read it.

  15. Adam Baker 5 April 2012 / 9:15 am

    Thanks, Emanuel. Very glad you enjoyed Outpost. Thanks for giving it a try.

  16. Stephen Moors 28 November 2012 / 6:35 am

    Outpost and the sequel were average and unoriginal zombie tales and certainly nothing special. There are so many better writers out there. His ideas are dated and the characters one dimensional. He should get a job as a journalist, he’s a distant observor, not a storyteller.

    • bronnypop 28 November 2012 / 10:25 am

      Funnily enough, Stephen, after I read Outpost and wrote the original post, the story just hung around in my head, and I am now waiting quite impatiently for news about the release of the sequel (Juggernaut was a separate stand-alone novel, I think). My husband and son both read and loved Outpost; so I guess, as Adam says above, it’s down to personal taste!

  17. Adam Baker 2 December 2012 / 10:15 pm

    Thanks for giving the books a try, Stephen. Sorry they weren’t to your taste.

    • Hopedenial 16 April 2013 / 1:00 pm

      I just finished outpost. I thought it was damn good. Kinda wish I knew what happened to Jane, punch, and sian though.

  18. Hopedenial 16 April 2013 / 12:58 pm

    His halting prose threw me at first, but I grew to like it. Great atmosphere. I very much enjoyed the book… Disappointing end with absolutely no closure to the outbreak story, however the book was more about characters than context so it’s somewhat forgivable.

    • bronnypop 1 May 2013 / 10:27 am

      Despite my initial whinge, hopedenial, I am still waiting impatiently for the promised sequel. Funny how things change over time, isn’t it? I think I can cope with the style, and I really do want to know what happens when they reach the mainland. If they reach the mainland …
      Any news, Adam?

  19. Stephen Moors 1 May 2013 / 4:43 am

    Despite a good structure and well laid plot Baker’s cast of characters are shallow, cliched and poorly drawn. More worryingly the writing has a distinctive 1980’s and I am assuming Baker is in his 40’s like myself and unconciously writes with a feel for this time period – the style of the books play out like a bad Bruce Willis movie. ‘Alien’, ‘The Thing’ and every zombie movie cliche has been spun into the storylines. What he lacks is originality and with an over saturated market for zombies, originality is the only thing that separates the average from the really good writers.

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