Anybody who has been following my reviews for a while likely knows that I have a particular fondness for arctic-based horror. Drop a group of folks in the middle of a freezing and inhospitable terrain where they are blinded by snow, frostbitten, and mentally at their wits end and at each other’s throats, and let the blood spill. I love shit like that, and Renee Miller clearly does, as well.
Stranded has all of the above, plus a mysterious monster rooted in indigenous folklore. While the creature is of the rough and tumble sort, this book's cast is heavily loaded with plenty of greedy human monsters to root against, too. Half the fun of Stranded is in seeing a lot of these bastards get their comeuppance, and Miller does a fun job of thematically arguing the point that greed is the root of all evil.
A handful of contestants are picked to compete in a brand-new reality show called Stranded, an extreme survival show where the stakes are raised with a bit of matchmaking. The players are whisked off to a remote, uninhabited arctic island in the Canadian north to seek fame, fortune, and glory, but a few of them have some dark secrets they’re hoping to escape. There’s a corrupt cop hoping to circumvent the investigation into her pay-off from pimps, and an unstable sex addict on the edge. Not to mention the show’s skeevy creator, producers, and crew who won’t let trifling nuisances like a spate of murders and disappearances wreak havoc with their guaranteed hit.
As I said above, there’s a lot of people to root against, and not many to root for. Stranded gets pretty dark and readers who need likeable protagonists to cheer on will likely find a few things to fret about here. Me, I’m good with nasty people meeting their nasty end by way of even nastier supernatural forces, and in this regard Miller delivers all kinds of violent fun. What I most appreciated, though, were the subtle layers of commentary about greed and its relationship to the monstrous force at play here. Miller doesn’t beat her readers over the head with preachiness or demands for her audience to repent, but there is a nice bit of thematic meat on this novella’s bones.
Most of all, though, Stranded is a fun, quick read, the kind of pulpy entertainment that’s right up my alley and hits all my sweet spots. It’s got blood-drenched snow, a terrible climate for its characters to endure or succumb to, and a nifty creature to boot. Renee Miller has crafted a brutal tale of monsters and madness, one that will make your blood run cold. Perfect for fans of The Thing, Stranded is arctic terror at its chillingly scary best.
[Note: I received an advance reading copy of this title from the publisher, Unnerving, to provide a publication blurb. I have chosen to review Stranded, as well, because I dug the hell out of this novella and hope you will too.]
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