They’re the only humans. But they’re not alone.
Adam Hayes pilots a small team to a remote Antarctic research station. Their mission: to investigate the loss of communications. Once there, the group of five find the station deserted, the radio smashed, and several strange piles of empty clothing. Forced to stay the night by a blinding snowstorm, they set out to solve the mystery of the missing crew. Eventually they will learn the horrifying truth—the station is not empty after all, and something unimaginable, dug up from the deep ice, roams the complex. Now they must fight for their lives against a cunning, thinking monster—and those who would unleash this terror on the rest of the world.
[I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.]
Keith Ferrario's Monster begins with the discovery an unknown substance buried very deep in the Antarctic ice. As a huge fan of John Carpenter's The Thing, I was immediately lulled in by Monster's description. I'm a big fan of horror that uses extreme locations as its primary setting, and have a particular fondness for arctic climes. So, I figured this book would be right up my alley. Unfortunately (for me at least), the arctic horror is only, literally, half of the story.
Monster is divided into two parts. In the first part, we're introduced to Adam Hayes, who pilots a small team to the Antarctic base after the researchers housed there have stopped communicating. This is a solid enough story and hit many of the right notes for me and then...it just sort of ended.
Part two acts as a pretty hard reboot halfway through, introducing us to all new characters in an all new setting. All of the momentum and tension that Ferrario built up in the tight confines of the research base completely disappears as readers are put back at square one and thrust into a medical mystery.
And this is really the main problem I had with Monster. It reads more like two novellas that were glued together by a faint thread. It's not until the book is nearly finished that Ferrario starts layering in the connections in explicit detail, but by then the story has been bogged down in reorienting readers to an entirely new situation and unveiling all the subterfuge and conspiracy stuff that's been happening around them.
Unfortunately, there's just a little too much subterfuge for my liking here, on behalf of both the characters and Ferrario himself. Part Two snapped me so far out of the reading experience that I wasn't able to ground myself in the story again, and I wasn't nearly as interested in the happenings of the book's second half as I was in the first. At a point where the driving force behind the story is at its highest, to suddenly have the rug pulled out from us and forced to start over felt more like a disheartening cheat than authorial cunning. Monster should have been rocketing toward its conclusion, instead of limping along with all-new introductions of everything. By the time the ending did near, I found myself increasingly indifferent to its resolution.
I'll give Ferrario credit, though - upending reader's expectations so ferociously and flipping the script entirely half-way through is an incredibly ballsy move. For me, it didn't quite pay off, even if I do think the core idea behind the plot is not only solid, but damn intriguing.