Brian Keene's 'Castaways':A Review
I've read many of Keene's stories, and most seem to revolve around the paranormal and the evil creatures that lurk in your nightmares. When I came across 'Castaways', I was glad to find something that breaks away from the Keene's familiar pattern. Still holding onto his trademark grotesque brand of gory storytelling, it's refreshing to find something that is just a little bit different, and still capitalizes on the fear of the unknown. Keene has said that he won't write anymore zombie novels, which is a shame since he does them so well. Granted, while 'Castaways' is an enjoyable change of pace, it just doesn't seem to have that magic which makes his zombie stories come alive.
Becka isn't 100% sure how she talked herself into joining the survival show Castaways. Sure, the million dollar grand prize is nice, but it's almost as if something else helped her make the decision. Even more baffling is how she outlasted half the other contestants. The game quickly takes it's toll on Becka. Hungry, tired and mentally spent, she does all she can to keep perservering. Just as she considers surrender, the game takes a drastic turn. A tropical storm is heading toward their island. As she and her fellow castaways bunker down to wait out the storm, that's when they see the opportunity to strike. The island, which producers thought was uninhabited, is actually home to a rare sub-human species that don't exactly take kindly to strangers. As the players ride out the storm, they never suspect the ambush heading their way. All of the men except for three are slaughtered, while the women are abducted for more sinister purposes. Can the remaning survivors get their act together soon enough to rescue Becka and the other women? Or are more dire fates waiting for her in the demon's den?
While 'Castaways' isn't by any means Keene's best work, I still considered it a fun read. The pace is actually pretty fast and I clocked this novel in at just under three days. The entertainment aspect came from the concept of a beloved reality show gone horribly, horribly wrong. Many might consider 'Castaways' as a cop out, as Keene trying to cash in on the reality TV mega giant. However, I can appreciate the irony of Keene poking fun at everything. I consider it a fresh idea, and I don't see why others aren't taking advantage of this creative gold mine. The cast of characters are pretty well written. Becka's resolve to keep pressing on when things seem hopeless is quite admirable. Jerry's determination is remarkable and Troy's obscenities are perfect for comic relief when the story starts getting hairy. And seeing the pompous Stefan getting his just desserts is nothing less than satisfying. I think I've more than established through my reviews that Keene is a master at crafting great, believable human characters, with that said, 'Castaways' fell just a little short for me. The fear and despair that each character feels just didn't translate as well in this novel. I realize how scared and desperate the players are, but I just don't feel it the way they do. I don't want it to seem that I'm knocking 'Castaways' down, I just know the great work that Keene is capable of. If you're a Keene fan, definitely check this one out, but for me, I'm not sure how long it will be before it's voted off the island. Three stars.
The cover may be kind of lame, but don't let that influence you decision.
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