From the sudden destruction of a research facility in Switzerland, toxic smoke and ash have formed an impenetrable cloud that begins to swallow everything in darkness, stretching across Europe while threatening the entire world. In response to the hazard, a squad of United States Marines are sent under the Cloud, unaware of the risks involved. Eighty-nine days later, the American people await the danger to reach their shores, most unable to bear it, but a few strong souls attempt to find a safe haven before time runs out.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Super Hoot Publishing and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity.
There’s a lot to unpack with Monstre, and I feel I wasn’t prepared for the sheer scope and detail Swan so meticulously included in this epic debut. I have a great interest in apocalyptic fiction, the more in-depth the better, so when I sat down to read the explosive opening I was thoroughly impressed – it was five-star content, easy. What I really connected with was how the diverse cast of characters, as well as the world around them, handled such a catastrophe; the division, desperation and degradation of society, it was all there, raw and unpleasant. Told through alternating timelines – from ground zero to around a hundred days in – it introduced two separate groups of survivors that had their own obstacles to overcome; from Chief Trace Colter and the urgent journey to outrun the coming danger, to Marine Gunner Colter and his struggles to keep his men alive – a tale of father and son, lost to one another. Despite preferring one party a bit more over the other, I was mostly invested in everything Swan dished out. There was this feeling of dread that the Cloud conjured, and it struck me as impactful overall; a gradually ticking clock as the world was swallowed by the dark.
Let’s face it, this type of fiction is mostly made up of varying takes on zombies, which definitely has its own appeal, but it’s always nice to have something else bring Armageddon upon the world. Comparable to The Mist, Swan’s freakish creations that were closely connected to the Cloud were seriously brutal and eerie in design, but they weren’t the only monsters. The story touched on some ugly and tragic subjects relating to murder and abuse, especially when following Trace and his people throughout the harsh wasteland that used to be civilisation. I was completely engrossed in that gritty side of things, devoted to each twist and turn. I simply couldn’t get enough.
However, regardless of all my praise, I do have to nitpick as there was a portion in the last quarter of the book that completely lost my interest, involving the marines and their assignment preparations. I feel it was bogged down by unnecessary technical jargon that went on too long and held little value, bringing everything to an abrupt standstill. As said, I did appreciate the amount of effort that Swan implemented, and I’m sure there are readers that would enjoy the specifics of that scene, but I had to stop myself from skimming, which proved difficult. It didn’t help that after all the extensive detail, there was little to no time to see the tech itself put into action, as cliffhangers immediately followed, bringing the novel to a close. My feelings are rather lukewarm about the conclusion, or lack thereof, as I’m aware there’s a second volume in the works, but it was just a bit disappointing to be so suddenly cut off during high-tension scenes.
In conclusion: An action-packed novel, Monstre didn’t hesitate to thrust horrors to the forefront, some other-worldly, and others closer to home. I loved getting to know the many characters (even though attachment in this kind of book is ill-advised), as well as the chaos Swan’s world devolved into, which wasn’t pretty. Probably one of the more memorable reads I’ll have this year, it certainly set a standard for what I want in apocalyptic horror. Unfortunately, the pacing toward the end lulled a bit; heavy technical language just doesn’t do it for me, and so I would say while it didn’t reach perfection, it was very close. I’ll be looking out for the continuation of this intense story, you can bet on that.
They had too much riding on dumb luck, and if being a marine had taught him anything, it’s that eventually luck runs out.
© Red Lace 2020