Release date: October 4, 2016 by Tor Books
When I read the description for Stranded, I had a flashback to the hours I spent watching “The Deadliest Catch” and I hope this would be all the drama of that show in a novel. While there was zero crabbing involved, it did scratch a Deadliest Catch itch. MacLeod wrote the setting of the ship, the sea, and the ice with a voice that transported me there, even though I’ve never experienced any of those things in reality. There was enough description for me to feel immersed in the setting yet I didn’t feel like anything was over-described, which is a difficult balance to find, especially with unusual settings.
When it comes to the plot, I am a little more conflicted. I have to admit, I was a bit bored for the first section and very end of the book. For someone is who removed from the world of seamen and icy oceans, it felt very technical and difficult to engage with. The twist, however, was so unexpected and really caught my attention. I think MacLeod did a nice job dropping clues and setting it up without giving it away, and I audibly gasped when I realized what was going on. MacLeod handled the plot twist well and upped the stakes tremendously in a way that drew me in completely. Stranded lost me a little bit again in the last 20 pages, this time because of the immense violence, gore, and mismatched emotional reactions. Without giving too much away, I felt like the last pages of the book tried too hard to reach to combine climax with resolution and the result was a bit of a mess. It all ramped up too quickly and too much for me at the end and fizzled out, which was disappointing considering how much I liked the middle of the story.
Finally, the characters fall in the same gray area as the plot for me. Noah, the main protagonist, is a man of man painful memories and interactions and it was hard to associate Noah with anything positive. He wasn’t a complainer, which was a relief, and his emotional and physical reactions to the events happening were, for the most part, appropriate and well written. Yet everything was just so depressing that it was hard to find anything other than gloom and despair. There were a few other characters that brought a bit of levity to the story but overall the situation the men are dealing with is so dire – being stuck on ice and the subsequent deaths will put a damper on things – that even the few bits of humor felt out of place. So while the characters and their personalities certainly fit the plot line, I wish there had been a bit more lightness woven throughout the story.
Overall, I think MacLeod hit the stranded at sea nail on the head. It’s not happy but it is well written and pulls you into the world of trapped ships and otherworldly challenges. If you are looking for a story that ends with a nicely wrapped bow, stay away from Stranded. But if you want a gritty novel that will transport you to the icy, bloody, treacherous oceans, pick this one up.
Overall rating: 3/5 stars
[I received an advance copy of Stranded from Tor Books via Net Galley. The opinions in this review are my own]