Walking through the Valley of Death; A review of Adam Baker’s “Impact”

Impact is the fourth in Adam Baker’s Revenant apocalypse series.   The ‘zombies’ here are caused by an alien plague falling to Earth with the wreckage of a Russian space station. This plague cause a metallic cancer to spread through the body, metal tendrils and spines infiltrating and spreading through the host organism, causing hideous mutations and eventually taking over the brain and obliterating the personality, creating a metal creature sheathed in rotting flesh, and joined to a hive mind.

In this book, mankind is losing the end-game, in fact has as good as lost.   Mankind is reduced to a few besieged pockets of resistance.   Here the crew of the Liberty Bell, an old B 52 bomber, take off from a Vegas landing strip to nuke a site in Death Valley, as ordered by Top Brass, for reasons unknown. The plane is ageing and unfit for purpose, and does crash, maiming, killing, or leaving stranded in the desert, the members of the crew. The survivors re-converge on the wreckage, to find that something is watching them, and there appears to be something deadly swimming through the sand in the ground beneath their feet.

The main protagonist is LaNitra Frost, a resourceful and very tough soldier, a heroine in the classic Baker mould. In fact, in all the novels in this series, a woman has been the lead heroic protagonist. Not all the men are weaker and duplicitous; Baker is not trying to make some silly gender point. Amongst the only hope in this increasingly bleak saga is the goodness and heroism shown by some of its characters.

The novel is written with Baker’s staccato and visceral prose. Pared down and fast moving, it’s ideal for the very tough and action packed stories he tells. It’s reminiscent of James Ellroy but it’s not a lame copy, Baker has made this style his own.

The novel has great set pieces and unflinching descriptions of violence and trauma to the human form. The infection is frightening creation, horribly violating in what it does to the human form, giving new reaches to the idea of a ‘living death.’ There’s a sense of mystery as to what the site the B 52 crew were on their way to nuke. The hive mind? Some kind of ‘alien boss?’ I won’t spoil it here.

It is also fun spotting the movie references. Tremors, most un-dead apocalypse films, Predator, Aliens, are some (I think) of the references here.

If there are disappointments, they lie with the sense that there is very little new here to readers of this series; gutsy heroine, horrible medical experiments and research on the infected, a remote location that contains both agoraphobic and claustrophobic elements, a focus on military hardware and procedure, horrible injury and violent death. Fine, readers of the series would want all this from any new instalment of the series. But the book lacks anything that moves the saga forward. It is the same stage of the End-game as the previous novel. We don’t really learn anything new about the infection (other than it may have been here in antiquity). We are at the same near extinction stage at the end, no closer to victory or complete defeat.

So the writer is close to treading water with this series, and he needs to close it, or move it forward with some major developments. Still, this remains great fun, a fast paced grisly read.



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