Apart from Sea Sick I’ve only read one other book by Iain Rob Wright called Animal Kingdom, and to say that it left me underwhelmed would be an understatement. But since I had just gotten a new phone, the size of which allows it to double up as a small weapon in case of an emergency, and I wanted to test drive the Kindle app, I downloaded this because it looked quick and easy and, most importantly, it was free.
He’s not the best author to grace my collection of readables, but in this instance Mr Wright has managed to pull together a good and easy read that for once tries to do something a little different with the increasingly dull and overpopulated zombie genre.
Jack Wardsley’s a police officer who’s been having a bit of a tough time. Having found his partner and lover shot in cold blood by a group of young British hoodlums his life has since gone into a bit of a spiral of heavy-handed police brutality and rampant alcohol abuse. Fearing for his own safety (and the safety of every gang on Britain’s shores) his superiors have booked him on a lovely cruise in hopes that it will give him the time to find himself and let go of some of his rage.
And the Spirit of Kirkpatrick is a lovely ship, designed with all of the gaudy modern touches that one would expect from a luxury liner carrying middle-class people trying to get away from it all. For the first time in ages Jack actually manages to get a decent night’s sleep and begins to think that all of the sun and fresh air might actually just be enough to get him back on track. The only thing throwing off this little holiday are all of the sick people on board, but you can’t let a nasty little flu get you down. Unless, of course, the nasty little flu turns people into raging, flesh-craving zombies that quickly overpower everyone on the ship and rip poor Jack to tiny little pieces…
But then Jack wakes up in bed and the whole day repeats itself. Everyone carries on during the day as they did, and every night the outbreak happens all over again. Jack tries to stop the outbreak at first, then tries to commit suicide a dozen different ways, but nothing stops the day from resetting every night at midnight. Just when he seems doomed to repeat this day for the rest of eternity Jack meets Tally, a Romany gypsy. Her people’s natural resistance to magic has gradually pulled her out of the time loop and made her aware of the odd resetting of time. She tells Jack about Pathwalkers, people gifted with the ability to not only see into the future but also across time, foreseeing different outcomes to the same event depending on what people decide to do. The Pathwalker is responsible for the day resetting and for some reason has chosen Jack to stop whatever it is that’s happening on the Spirit of Kirkpatrick.
Together Jack and Tally must find a way to stop the outbreak from happening in the hope that this will appease the Pathwalker and get them to break the spell that’s forcing everyone to relive this god-forsaken day over and over again.
The Writing Style
Iain Rob Wright writes with no great flourish, but with this type of book that’s exactly what you need. No superfluous language, no unnecessary detail, you’re given what you need to set the scene and enough information that you understand what motivates the characters and the story just carries on its merry way. At 218 pages Sea Sick is a quick read, but what happens in those 218 pages is well-paced and constructed in a way that will keep you turning the page.
The characters aren’t entirely likeable, but I don’t imagine that they were meant to be. Those removed from the time loop act as one might expect under the circumstances (debauchery first, depression later), while those stuck in the loop behave with sufficient shock when (to their knowledge) perfectly good strangers know an awful lot more about them that they should. All in all, perfectly relatable and understandable characters.
My only criticism is that the book could have done with another round of proof reading. It’s simple stuff where you can see that sections were rewritten for better expression but then half of the original wording was erroneously left in, or where characters are mentioned by name before they introduce themselves. It doesn’t make the sections where this happens unintelligible, but it does detract from what is, overall, a very well put together story.
In a world where the zombie genre is fast crumbling under the weight of everyone vying for a piece of the pie (and where, in my humble opinion, Frank Tayell is the only author who can put together a decent “traditional” zombie narrative), Sea Sick makes for a welcome change in that (1) it does something different, and (2) as with most good zombie stories, the zombies themselves are not the real problem.
It isn’t the sort of book that you would re-read time and time again in case you missed something crucial or because there’s something more to learn, but as a once-off read it’s highly enjoyable with enough intrigue and horror to keep those of us who like that sort of thing going right up until the end.
My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Sea Sick on Amazon.com