Top critical review
Slowly getting back to form...but has a ways to go.
Reviewed in the United States on February 4, 2009
Being quite a fan of Keene from early days (The Rising, Terminal) I have, as have others, recognized the great writing potential he possess. The Rising books, The Conquerer Worms, Dead Sea, and Dark Hollow all showed just what this man can do. The books in between, however, have shown just what a uninspired and deadline-pressed writer can do with half-thought out ideas, shallow characters, and tried and boring plot devices.
He truly hit a high point a few books ago with Dark Hallow. That book still haunts me and he truly put great effort to hold back his greatest vice, which is bad dialogue.
Unfortunately, since then...no so much.
In a past review, I wrote about my disappointment in Ghost Walk and hoped Castaways would be a strong round back to from.
While it's better...it's not by much.
As the Author tells, past readers know, and the other reviewers here have mentioned...Castaways is a extended version of a short story he wrote for the late Richard Layman. It was story based on Layman's Beast House series.
For this book, he combined that with his personal obsession for Survivor into a bit a of a vanity project that comes out bloody and relatively entertaining...but flat and predictable. A shame. He also throws in some story elements that could have been very interesting: a home-grown US terrorist plotting to kill all on the island and film it, forcing the American media to give them clout.....but that quickly goes nowhere. Also, he make a quick chapter look at the the characters on the off-shore boat waiting for the survivors....but never returns to them. Could have been interesting if the creatures somehow made it to the boat.
Actually, this story STRONGLY resembles a much superior novel by Scott Nicholas called "They Hunger". "They Hunger" encompasses many of the plot points and story ideas of "Castaways", but does so which much better results. It has vampire-esque creatures stalking some stranded survivalists in the North Carolina mountains, a crazed home-grown terrorist who is deeply explored and carries an important role, the group dynamics of people in crisis mode.
If you've read Castaway, read "They Hunger" to see how this story should have been handled.
if you have NOT read Castaways...skip it and try "They Hunger".
Regardless, 2 bad books in a row really has me doubting Urban Gothic...but I'll probably give it a chance.
Note to Keene: Come on Brian...write when YOU want to...about what YOU want, but Take your time, put the art and fun back into it. When you're writing dialogue...Please...PLEASE, above everything else...when you're writing dialogue, say to yourself "is this REALLY what someone would say in such a situation?" "Is this REALLY how people talk in the real world?"
And for christ sake...get back to your nihilistic endings where everyone dies in the end. That's your mark, man.