Sole Survivor & Sole Survivor II
Sole Survivor: Zachary Ashford
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Unnerving Magazine has continued to knock the ball out of the park with their Rewind or Die series of Novellas. I’ve read a bunch of them but shamefully hadn’t managed to read ‘Sole Survivor’ by the fantastic Zachary Ashford.
What I liked: Oddly, the last ‘reality-show’ based book I’d read was ‘Stranded’ by Renee Miller, which was also put out through Unnerving. ‘Sole Survivor’ was the exact opposite of that release though, as this one was set on a sunny, tropical beach, versus the icy arctic setting of ‘Stranded.’
The story is a fast burst of carnage.
We start off with the group of possible contestants arriving on the beach shores of the island. I’ll touch on my usage of ‘possible’ in a second here.
Immediately the people break off into groups/cliques and try to set themselves up for survival. Unbeknownst to them, there are carnivorous tree-dwelling beasties waiting to slash and tear them apart.
I presume Ashford will never get this made into a film, as the budget for fake blood would absolutely push close to $100 million on its own. Time and time again, our crazy beasties arrive and rip apart the characters and do so with glee. Even when the people fight back and manage to kill a few, the trees are overflowing with these jerks and they keep coming.
I loved every single action scene here. Ashford killed his characters with joy and tongue firmly planted in cheek. It was almost like reading a scene where a fuzzy teddy bear comes alive and surprises the adults. I read this with such a smile on my face enjoying the destruction and trying to figure out just who was going to survive.
What I didn’t like: Remember how I said I’d discuss the word ‘possible’? What I didn’t like was that we really don’t get a true sense of if this was actually a reality show. The characters suggest it, but there is no host, they arrive on the beach after a plane crash which the characters don’t know if it was staged or real.
I think the biggest miss for me, was the complete lack of character development and build up. It always annoyed me when watching reality shows how the first few episodes would be character introductions, but the entire reason for that was so that we’d connect and have a vested interest on who wins or who goes home. With ‘Sole Survivor’ we’re thrown into the action so quickly, I just didn’t know who was who.
Why you should buy this: While my character aspect was negative, this book was still A TON OF FUN. Just loved how much action and gore we were given and it was interesting to see some sub-surface storylines develop, which I hope are expanded upon in Book Two.
If you’re looking for a book similar to Alan Baxter’s ‘The Roo’ and want a fast read with some really well-done death scenes, look no further. Ashford really delivered here with those.
An uninhabited island…
Several hundred hidden cameras…
Ten contestants who think they’re stranded…
One man employed to thin their numbers…
One predatory species determined to feed…
For the contestants of television’s latest prime-time reality show, the plane crash is a mere inconvenience on their way to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, there’s no rescue coming. Instead, the producers have other ideas, like watching them find the island’s killer creatures for themselves…
Like watching them die.
Tune in and discover who will be the Sole Survivor!
Sole Survivor II: Zachary Ashford
Reviewed By Steve Stred
After recently devouring ‘Sole Survivor’ in anticipation of book two, I preordered the release. I was able to kindly get a digital review copy as well, so I decided not to wait and read after it was out!
As book two picks up after book one, everything I mention from here on out may be a potential spoiler. I apologise, but in this case, book one must be read to understand what happens in book two.
What I liked: ‘Sole Survivor II: Drop Bears on the Loose’ picks up with our lone survivor December trying to navigate the new world. Contractually obligated to promote the show she appeared on during the carnage, we see her struggling with making people want to watch versus what she experienced.
Soon, we get to see some of what is happening with the experiments and an environmental/animal protection group becomes involved.
With that, Ashford has unleashed a full-on shoot-em-up, action/adventure sequel, versus book one which was a survival tale. We get a range of events, from gruesome deaths to emotion-filled loss, and of course, we get horrific carnage as the drop bears get out of their confined cages.
Ashford doesn’t let up and even with the epilogue, we get hints of a third act.
This was a really fun time. While we know some characters are there merely to be exterminated, Ashford makes sure to deliver some great one-liners and some hilarious moments. The banter was well done.
What I didn’t like: I honestly didn’t understand how the animal protection group even got involved, as the events in book one were pretty straight forward. So, I found their plotline to be a bit unwarranted and took away from the drop bears ripping heads off.
Why you should buy this: Unnerving’s ‘Rewind or Die’ Series has been great and this is such a fun time. Ashford has crafted two excellent reads here with some of the best action scenes I’ve read in some time. I highly recommend you give this a go back-to-back with book one.
Sole Survivor II
The first season of Sole Survivor has aired, a traumatized December Foss is trying desperately to escape her fifteen minutes of fame, and everyone thinks the drop bears are dead. Everyone that is except The Ark: a radical group of eco-terrorists with an axe to grind, and Joseph Steinberg, who still has plenty of them in reserve.
When the Ark release the drop bears from captivity, all hell breaks loose and December must face them again. This time, though, they’re on her turf. This time, it’s personal!
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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