Review: Savage Island
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This started out pretty good. A fairly interesting premise, it's a UK based horror novel - a group of teens enter a contest where the prize is one million pounds - each. The group will be whisked off to a reclusive billionaire's private island for some sort of survival contest where there will be a number of tasks to complete and other teams to compete against. Last team standing who complete all the tasks win the prize. Sounds pretty good, right?
If however, you're a horror movie fan like me and have seen more horror films than you can count or remember red flags should be going off immediately and the obvious question that should be on anyone's brain - what's the catch here? There has to be something that's going to go hideously wrong very quickly.
The characters are pretty ordinary teens, told from the point of view of Ben who lives with his younger brother Will and their divorced mum, pretty girl Lizzie, Ben's long time crush, and friends, Lizzie's BFF mouthy Carmen and smart guy Grady. There's something uncomfortable right off with Will, told in flashbacks - he's got some personality problems and is very manipulative, and cruel especially when he doesn't get his way. Ben's a people pleaser. The peace maker. Will manages to convince them to bring him along. He's very smart and resourceful and could be useful. Despite his sociopathic behaviour issues. Or I'm guessing all part of said personality disorder.
For a horror novel it's not scary in the slightest, (but that could be a personal feeling really as I may be rather jaded from having seen so many movies and read a fair amount of Stephen King which seems to be the yard stick I measure horror against). And while the novel was pretty silly there was something in the narrative that was enough to make me as a reader keep going to want to know what the point of it all was. To be fair it did manage to be pretty tense.
When the kids get to the island there's a list of tasks to complete, a riddle to be solved and a tithe to be paid before getting the instructions to the next point. The first team to clear the checkpoints, pay all the tithes and get to the final checkpoint by a certain time is the winter. The first tithe is a little gross, and if that's the first...how bad are the rest going to be? And what about the other teams competing? How far are they willing to go to win?
It all starts getting pretty despairing as things get more violent and go from bad to worse. It has some pretty eye rolling for fuck's sake moments, the plot manages like I said earlier to at least keep the interest alive. It is quite visually striking - it's very easy to picture what's going on as if it were a movie on the screen. Despite some eye rolling moments, the kids aren't stupid, they're fairly logical regardless of the growing panic and fear the worse the situation gets and the more threats that approach.
Problem was the kids had in my opinion zero personality to make them remotely memorable or likeable, with the exception of Ben and Will. We get flashbacks of their complicated relationship and unpleasant family history. They are the only ones who seem to get some sort of fleshing out.
What really let this novel down for me was the end. It was...stupid. The whole reveal of what was going on and the final body count....was like what the fuck did I waste my time on this for and was really disappointing.
While this is a standalone novel it's part of a group of UK YA horror called Red Eye, and despite the crappy ending, I sort of would recommend it if you like cheesy horror, which is pretty much what I gather the Red Eye series is. Or at least what I'm guessing I will find this series. I have a number of other titles to try in the series. While this title was by no means somethingI I will read again I do look forward to trying the Red Eye series.
The writing did show promise, so I would probably try something else by this author.
Thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for approving my request to view the title.