Impact, by Adam Baker, pub Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 9781444755886)

A plane sprawls in the desert sands, crumpled on its belly. Smoke spirals up from it, a black smear against the sky. Survivors? There are footprints leading from the wreckage, but there’s something else too. Someone else. Standing. Silhouetted against the plane. Still. Is it a man? Above the title are two faces, bruise-purple and raging. The living dead. This is survival. This is horror. This is Impact.

Impact may be the fourth of Adam Baker’s apocalyptic series, but it’s surprisingly easy to jump into blind. The overarching world plot has obviously been developing for a while now, but he manages that for newcomers by keeps things strictly point of view. Regardless of any discoveries and breakthroughs made in the other books, these characters only have deductions, theories, painkillers and raw determination to go on. If elements from other books have an impact on Impact then long time readers will treat them as Easter eggs. Everyone else can still happily enjoy the ride.

Plot-wise, there has been a plague. It could be man-made, could be natural, could even be alien. Who knows? Its victims come out in metallic welts and spiny extrusions. To all intents and purposes they are zombies, but they are not quite the mindless horde we’ve grown familiar with over the years. There seems to be some kind of warped intelligence behind it all. The world as we know it has now come to an end. All that is left are the walking dead and a few dwindling pockets of humanity. A desperate mission is prepared at one of these bastions; an airfield at Las Vegas. From it, a nuclear payload is to be flown into the desert to take out a key target. When the plane crashes en route, the fight for Humanity’s survival becomes very specific and very personal.

This is airport thriller territory. This is an action movie playing out in your head. The writing style took me a little while to get to grips with, I have to confess. It seemed dissociative. Deadened. Pure visuals at first. But then the characters started to come to life. Their perspectives gave meaning to the visuals, gave tension to the situation in a way that I hadn’t initially thought likely. This isn’t my normal kind of fiction by a long shot, but I have to tell you it becomes pretty damned compelling. The plot is, in many ways, paper thin and the setting is sparse but, as you live alongside Frost, Trenchman, Noble and the rest, you can’t help but get caught up in their struggle.

Baker has done what all writers want to do – capture your imagination then spin it off in new directions. I was haunted by the wreckage of humanity, alluded to throughout, and the stories that lie behind and beyond the range of this volume. I was equally fascinated by the possibilities and implications thrown out as to where the plague came from and what the intentions behind it may have been. Somewhere, there’s a master plan, but it looks like I’ll have to pick my way through the series to unravel it. I’ve got volumes 1 and 2 kicking around at home (Outpost and Juggernaut, in case you’re wondering) so I guess that’s my reading sorted out for the summer holidays. I think you should join me.

GS Rating: 3.5/5

GS Blogger: Dion Winton-Polak

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