Stranded: Bracken MacLeod
Reviewed By Steve Stred
If you know my reading preferences or my writing themes, a book like ‘Stranded‘ by Bracken MacLeod seems like a book I’d be all over.
Yet, for reasons unknown, it took me some time to get to this from my TBR. Heck, I’d even read ‘Stranded‘ by Renee Miller (frozen setting, survival theme) before this one!
A significant amount of people told me to read this and time and time again, I’d say “it’s coming soon.”
I’m certainly glad I finally got to it.
What I liked: ‘Stranded‘ is a book that tackles a number of themes and MacLeod holds back no punches when letting them settle into the bones of the characters and the marrow of the readers.
On the surface, this is purely a winter survival story. We get a group of men working aboard the good ship Arctic Promise, attempting to deliver goods to a vessel. A sudden, violent storm arrives, knocking out the communication systems and trapping the ship in ice. From there, MacLeod keeps the pedal to the metal and the tension sticks to your fingers as you frantically flip the page, wanting to know what happens next.
But, this isn’t purely a story of survival. No, we get a look at the depth of despair and grief people go through, how isolation guides decision making and how keeping a singular glimmer of hope can keep someone alive. The idea of second chances and what-ifs really comes into play frequently and I loved how it was used to keep tugging us along.
The biggest theme that really permeates the frosty narrative is the toxic masculinity that wraps its hands around this story and won’t let go. I used to be a big-time fan of the TV show ‘Deadliest Catch,’ but the constant bullying, belittling and beatings people would take on the show, from Captains and Crewmen who acted like fools became too much and I found I couldn’t watch it anymore. This was a constant within the story, rearing up time and time again and it worked really well to create distance from the ‘good’ and the ‘bad.’
MacLeod crafted a really well done story here, one that kept me wanting to know more and more.
What I didn’t like: I put this section here to act as a place where I can mention something I wasn’t a fan of or what other readers might not enjoy. In this case, within the book, there is a very interesting plot point that comes about involving someone from Noah’s past. Reader’s may not enjoy when the book ends that we never truly get answers. The ending left a similar mark on me as ‘The Cabin At the End of the World‘ did, where it’s essentially a fade to black, but it worked so well for me as the reader. I hope it does for you.
Why you should buy this: If you haven’t read this already, I highly recommend you give it a shot. MacLeod is a brilliant writer who gives us character depth and story points that unravel and weave much like a ship in wavy water. It was really masterfully put together and was one of those books that, once done, you’ll set it down and smile, knowing you just finished having a blast.
Really loved this one.
In the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Jacob’s Ladder comes Stranded — a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems by Bracken MacLeod.
Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.
Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.
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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