First published back in April of 2024, Canadian author Ben Date’s debut novel ‘The Outpost’ delivered a thick slice of highly entertaining and utterly over-the-top 1980s style post-apocalyptic fiction.

DLS Synopsis:
The year was 2048 when the global economy hit an all-time low, with resources depleting at a rate too fast to replenish. Even with the world’s technologies for preservation, humanity was on its knees, and with that, mankind became desperate. The inevitable eventually became reality – nuclear war broke out, decimating the entire globe within a matter of days.

During those days of nuclear Armageddon, Joseph hid away within the dark wine cellar attached to his rented accommodation. He waited until the world stopped shaking. It was an entire week before he was forced to leave the cellar for water and provisions. In that time the world had changed forever.

Two-years later and Joseph is now twenty-eight, although he could now probably pass for his mid-forties. It was truly remarkable how much he had changed over the past twenty-four months.

As promising signs of post-apocalyptic civilisation began to emerge from the wreckage, so did new and unimaginable threats. As a result of the radiation compounds present within modern warheads, people had managed to survive the massive doses of radiation, only to suffer from severe side-effects that transformed them into things other than human.

Many referred to these unfortunate creatures as ‘The Sick’, since they’d become sick in all aspects of their mind, body, and soul. Joseph, however, called them ‘Orvilles’, on account of their brains having been fried and their blistered skin reminding him of popcorn.

Although these mutants had lost most of their ability to rationalise and work through complex problems, they had however, become excellent hunters of humans over the past two years. They were relentless and they were effective. A deadly combination.

However, within this vicious post-apocalyptic hell, there were still pockets of hope. When Jospeh joins a trio of fellow survivors, they tell him of a sanctuary away from this dog-eat-dog world. An outpost on the far side of the city of Hathburg. Outpost Zulu.

The facility was being run by the Post-Apocalyptic Republic. A contingency plan that had been put in place by the Russians for if the country ever fell apart. The PAR was there to help survivors in the event of Armageddon. To protect them.

Jospeh and his companions had to get to this sanctuary. The Outpost was their one hope within this hostile world of endless violence and murder. The light at the end of the bleak and unforgiving tunnel.

Unfortunately for Joseph, despite having survived nuclear war, despite having fought and survived numerous attacks, his hardest days were yet to come…

DLS Review:
First off, I’m pretty sure at the back of Ben Date’s mind, was that this novel would form the first instalment within a trilogy, if not a full-blown series. It’s got all the hallmarks of such, most notably the left-wide-open ending, which provides plenty of scope for plenty of continuation in all directions. Which, having now read Date’s debut offering, is in my opinion, no bad thing at all.

So, what’ve we got with ‘The Outpost’? Well, essentially, it’s a relatively textbook post-apocalyptic novel, ticking all those tried-and-tested boxes, for a tale within this well-trodden subgenre. Indeed, its probably best described as a blend between a ‘Deathlands’ style setup – with all the freaks, bandits and mutants causing all sorts of havoc – and a David Moody offering, with the author’s character-driven focus for the tale. In fact, if you were to rid the ‘Deathlands’ novels of all their over-the-top 1980s cheese and wacky charm, you’d probably be left with something quite similar to this new offering.

There are all the usual tropes of post-apocalyptic fiction thrown into this novel. Blood-thirsty mutants who scavage the decimated landscape each night, searching for human survivors to devour. Cult like cannibals plucking off weary travellers for their lavish feasts. And of course, the last remaining military presence (PAR) and the ragtag militia that guard the Outpost. It’s all good shit, if action-rich dystopian fiction is your gravy.

But we’re not done there. Chuck into the mix a secret conspiracy about PAR forcing unwilling victims to be subjected to trials to make them into weird cyborg-like-fighters, and we’ve got ourselves the foundations for one wild ride.

At the heart of this story is an unlikely trio of survivors – Joseph, Greg and Hillary – the young lawyer, mechanic and the aspiring nurse. We get to follow this trio from their first meeting, all the way through their various perilous ordeals, to come out the other side stronger and closer than ever. In fact, over the course of the novel, these three characters become more than just companions bonding within a hellish new world, they become family.

There’s a shit-tonne to like about the novel and its unashamed action-rich and over-the-top enjoyment factor. As you’ve probably guessed, the novel’s not exactly brimming with originality, but nevertheless it does weave a solid tale with plenty of eventful happenings throughout.

The writing is utterly unpretentious, instead focusing on delivering a continuous stream of dips and dives to the plot, whilst fleshing-out the characters and the next pulse-racing piece of action-rich drama. As such, there’s little to no padding within the book, but rather a storyline that leaps from one plot-rich scene to the next.

For his debut novel, Ben Date has delivered a strong addition to a popular but (let’s be honest) incredibly over-crowded subgenre. Date’s taken all those textbook tropes from the genre and injected a fresh transfusion of blood into its mutated heart. The end result is a novel bursting at the seams with pulse-racing action and end-of-the-world corruption. To achieve this, Date brings to the table a varied cast of characters, each playing out their respective roles within the post-apocalyptic piece, with purpose and zero unnecessary padding.

Don’t let the somewhat bland cover art of the book deceive you. What we have with ‘The Outpost’ is a highly entertaining reboot to 1980s style over-the-top post-apocalyptic fiction. Flesh-hungry mutants and all.

The novel runs for a total of 270 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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