First published in February 2012, ‘Juggernaut’ formed British horror/survivalist author Adam Baker’s follow-up prequel to his earlier novel ‘Outpost’ (2011).

DLS Synopsis:
After receiving a tip-off about an abandoned cache of gold (approximately three tonnes worth) from the now imprisoned Iraqi - Jabril Jamadi, Lucy Whyte’s seven-strong team of ungoverned mercenaries orchestrate an ambitious break-out mission to retrieve the Iraq from the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Baghdad.  Using Jabril’s first-hand knowledge of the exact whereabouts of the gold, the mercenaries set off into the barren and unforgiving desert, to locate and bring back this abandoned cache of Saddam’s gold.

After landing in the nearby vicinity provided by Jabril as to the location of the gold, the team of mercenaries follow an unused rail line that eventually leads them through a tunnel in the towering stone cliffs and into a vast open valley known as the ‘Valley Of Tears’.  Here an ancient citadel is located, hidden away by the steep stone walls that surround it on all sides.  And, here in front of the carved stone images of ancient gods, the burnt out wreckage of Saddam’s gold-carrying convoy sits abandoned.

Upon arriving the highly equipped mercenaries set to securing the area.  The ground surrounding the ancient citadel ruins is littered with destroyed vehicles, spent bullets shells and the burnt remains of the dead.  A vicious firefight had obviously taken place in the vicinity, with little to no survivors.  The only known survivor of the ferocious battle being that of Jabril Jamadi himself.

Whilst securing the area surrounding the necropolis along with setting up the equipment for the extraction of the gold from the heavily-armoured security van, one of the mercenaries named Huang is attacked and bitten by what appeared to be a savagely mutilated corpse.  The wound in Huang’s neck quickly begins to show signs of infection, with strange metallic spines beginning to protrude from the rotting flesh.

Jabril insists that he knows what is happening to the ex-military mercenary.  He assures the team that the only thing they can do for Huang now is kill him.  He’s infected and must be destroyed straight away, or else they will all die.  The longer they wait, the more he will suffer…and then he’ll turn.  He’ll become a vicious killer, no longer the man they’ve fought beside year after year, but a mindless monster desperate to kill all those around him.  A mere vessel for the spreading of the virus.  An unknown virus that was onboard the Russian Spektr space shuttle when it crash-landed within the desert.  A virus that some powerful individuals are desperate to get their hands on.

There’s a lot more out in the vast wilderness of the desert than this gold snatching mercenaries bargained for.  The dead won’t stay dead any longer, and greed has a nasty way of enticing betrayal out of even the tightest of teams.  Survival won’t be easy…

DLS Review:
Setting down a little more of an explanation behind the vicious viral outbreak from Baker’s earlier novel ‘Outpost’ (2011), here the reader is treated to the contagion doing its thing in an equally hostile and desolate environment, where those that have been exposed play out a zombie-like threat on the heavily equipped ragtag mercenaries.

Once again the similarities between the likes of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982) are ever-present, however, this time the dusty desert backdrop along with the ‘gold grabbing’ plotline adds an additional ‘Three Kings’ (1999) element into the mix.  Throw in a marauding horde of the undead going up against a bunch of heavily-armed mercenary misfits, and you’re pretty much on the money.

Baker clearly likes to give his characters multiple layers and a thoroughly gritty nature to each and every one of them.  There’s no plain and simple ‘goody-two-shoes’ protagonist.  They all have their shady pasts, their reasons for being where they are doing what they are, and their own personal demons to face.  And as such, the team of seven mercenaries is an eclectic bunch, with hard-punching pasts defining the bitterness of their current lifestyles.  And this is meant to be their final play for a decent future.  Their one big break.  And so Baker toys with this scenario perfectly, pushing them onwards, out of sheer desperation to have this side of their lives over and done with.

It’s pretty darn obvious from early on that the author likes his gung-ho military-porn with plenty of specific weaponry defining and specific calibres thrown around like there’s no tomorrow.  These intricate details, whether correct or not (I haven’t got the foggiest), just adds that little extra degree of realism to the mutant-blasting frolics taking place out in the scorching desert heat.

Baker’s repeated use of a short, sharp prose punches out the more action-packed and adrenaline-pumping scenes, adjusting the flow, feel and urgency of the tale in such a simple but effective manner.  This immediate way of deliberately stabbing at the reader with a quick succession of stunted and action-driven sentences, literally forces a change in pace upon the reader.  At its best, the reader barely even notices this sudden shift in sentence length; so caught up in the thrills and spills of the action sequence being played out.  However, usually this technique is very noticeable and can at times becoming irritating, especially if over utilised.  Personally, I think Baker takes the use of this to its furthest extent before it gets annoying.  However, this may very well mostly be down to the sheer amount of desperate action sequences that occur within the tale. 

The ending is somewhat ruined by the framing structure of the novel, giving away the final surviving members of the team within the very first few pages of the book.  Okay, so this isn’t a particularly big deal, but one that did slightly gnaw away at me whilst reading the final few chapters; knowing who will ultimately make it out of there and who won’t.

All in all the novel is a high-impact adrenaline-pumping romp with plenty of rancid splatter and gun wielding mayhem to keep any good survivalist-cum-horror aficionados happy.  There’s also plenty of ‘Deathlands’ style weapons-checking and virus-infected undead soldiers lumbering around the place to whet the appetites of most post-apocalyptic / zombie enthusiasts.  There’s a hell of a lot of these gritty delights in the novel, and it doesn’t rest up until it comes screaming to a halt on the very last few pages.  It’s all good.

The novel runs for a total of 401 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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