BOOK REVIEW: Juggernaut

When I first picked up Juggernaut I didn’t have particularly high hopes that I would enjoy it.  I’ve never been a fan of horror and the blurb didn’t seem particularly inspiring to me so this just didn’t seem to be my sort of book.  However, I was in for a pleasant surprise.  Juggernaut is an action-packed, edge-of-your seat ride but it’s also intelligent and very well written.  I can’t claim to be a convert to horror (I’m still a bit too squeamish to ever really be a fan) but I realised that good writing is enjoyable regardless of genre.

Set during the height of the Iraq war, it tells the tale of a group of mercenaries who head into a remote valley in the middle of the desert in search of missing gold and find a very nasty surprise waiting for them.  The setting of war-torn Iraq is vividly realised.  This is a place where death could be lurking around every corner, through any open window or in any parked car..  Images which most people will remember from the news are brought to life from the point of view of characters actually caught up in the action. This adds a sense of immediacy and also a certain depth to a story that could easily have become hokey .  Some of the most haunting moments have nothing to do with the supernatural elements of the book but relate to the cruelty that human beings are capable of showing to each other.

The early action sequences showing what an average working day is like for the little group of mercenaries lead by Lucy Whyte.  It’s hell on earth and they have to be tough as hell to survive it.  It is hardly surprising that they are keen to take up the chance for a quick score that will enable them to escape once and for all.   The quest for the missing gold which takes them into the desert may seem hackneyed but it is convincingly set against real-life events surrounding the fall of Sadam Hussain’s regime.  Once they reach the mysterious valley where the gold was supposedly abandoned things take a turn for the seriously weird.

There is a danger with a book as action-focused as Juggernaut that the characters will end up as two-dimensional cyphers.  This is something that Adam Baker mostly manages to avoid.  Lucy herself is believably tough enough to fulfil her role as leader but is also genuinely sympathetic.   Jabril, the Iraqi man who leads them to the gold, has an intriguing back story and complex motivations for his actions.  Some of the other characters are a little more sketchily drawn and with a story of this nature it’s always tempting to play a game of ‘who‘s going to die next’.  In fact, Adam Baker takes a risk by revealing very early on who will survive but this doesn’t detract from the tension as there is a lot more than mere survival at stake.

It is true that Juggernaut has a classic action-horror set-up; the small group of characters, the remote setting, the unstoppable menace that gradually picks off our heroes – in fact sometimes seems more like an action-movie waiting to happen than a novel – however that is not necessarily a bad thing because Juggernaut feels like a GOOD action movie.  If you think about Aliens or The Thing you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Overall the book lives up to its title: it’s fast; it’s scary; it’s exciting.

Jump aboard and enjoy the ride.

Rating: 4.5/5
GS Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak

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