Ginger Nuts of Horror
I cannot in good conscience start this review without disclosing the fact that I'm friends with the author. I mean, we consider ourselves brothers. I have read almost all he ahs put out and liked it all. That said, this review is honest and not shaded by that.
Stranded begins with our crew of the Arctic Promise, weathering a storm both literal and symbolic. Noah Cabot is on deck and at odds with the ship's captain, Brewster. The storm grows in both literal and metaphoric intensity, the crew are battered and some injured. The skies and seas calm and aside from a fire below decks, all seems well. Then the sickness creeps in. Most of the crew come down with severe headaches and nosebleeds. Then there's the fog, which leads them to the biggest hurdle of all. The ice. The crew of the Promise suddenly find themselves ice bound and ill. Most men can barely stand and those who can are not very pleasant for it. The antagonism from ailment and fatigue does nothing to bolster the surly attitudes that most had before the events.
Noah is the only one not taken with the illness. He does see the shadows, shifting and scurrying at the edges of his vision. It is decide when breaking the ice by hand fails, that the only option is for a group to head out on foot, toward the snow-covered shape on the horizon, the shape they hope to be their initial destination.
Bracken paints his characters with thick and hearty strokes. Stalwart and crotchety but human enough to understand. Noah and Brewster are flip sides of the same coin, forged in grief and loss and stamped with the hard press of ornery stubbornness. The other characters all have personality and swagger, far from the "extras" this sort of story could deliver. It's not quite the story I expected. What MacLeod gives us is more of an extended episode of The Outer Limits as directed by the ghost of Sam Peckinpah. It is an intriguing read and one that might leave you seeing your breath.
Stranded is available from Tor Books, which means any "real" book store ought to have it or be able to get it for you.