The second book in Adam Baker’s zombie virus series, Juggernaut serves as a prequel to the first book, Outpost. A book that we absolutely loved, taking the zombie apocalypse base idea and giving it a unique spin. You can read our review of Outpost here.
While Juggernaut is a prequel its only connection to Outpost is the disease. This book is set in a completely different location with completely different characters. What we have here is a story that explains the origins of the virus (sort of) and how the end of the world begun (sort of).
Juggernaut centres around the aftermath of the Iraq invasion in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussain. A group of mercenaries and soldiers are tired of war. They find out about a secret stash of gold that Saddam supposedly hid deep in the desert. Their plan is to get some helicopters and go get rich before retiring on a beach somewhere. They need a guide though, someone who has been there before.
They break out an Iraqi who oversaw the camp at the location and while he is willing to go back, his reasons are different. This location is cursed, a disease wiped out hundreds of men and the risk is great. The lure of gold is too much though and after striking a deal with a pair of unscrupulous men to fly them to the site, they head off.
Unknown to them though, they are being watched. Someone wants them out there, someone wants to see what they find and when they do, that someone will do anything to get their hands on it.
Adam Baker is a master of getting the reader to visualise his environments and locations. You could feel the cold in Outpost and here you can feel the dry, hot air of the desert. Using post-Saddam Iraq was such a great idea and it’s completely believable that there would be hidden locations deep in the desert where Saddam hid riches and other things.
Using soldiers and mercenaries this time round gives a different perspective on the disease as these people have a level of training that makes them better foil for the monsters that await them. That does mean we get a lot of ‘army’ speak and a fair amount of military style descriptions. If you can put up with that you’ll find some fairly decent characters with enough backstory to help you invest in their efforts to survive.
That’s very praise-worthy as soldiers are often so cookie cutter when written about that it’s hard to care about them at all.
Elsewhere, another thing to praise is the build. It takes quite a while for the group to have to deal with any of the reanimated dead. This might not seem like a good thing but it is as the sense of anticipation and the dread grows deeper and deeper. It’s almost a relief when things start to go badly!
When they do it’s because of the unknown infection/virus. One thst can reanimate the dead but changes up the traditional zombie idea by how it operates and what it does. I truly find Adam Baker’s version here one of the most stomach churning and horrifying I’ve ever read about. Here we finally learn about its origins and how it ended up on earth. While we’re still no clearer by the end of just where in the galaxy it came from or how it attached itself to a Russian spacecraft, we get enough information to feel like the story is progressing.
Of course, if you’ve read Outpost, you already know this virus is the end of everything. This should leave the stakes in Juggernaut feeling a bit pointless but it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t matter if they stop the virus here. The characters and story are so investable, you’ll forget that we’re all screwed in the end.
While Juggernaut just misses out on reaching the highs of Outpost, it comes damn close. It’s a excellent sequel/prequel and the final few pages creates huge anticipation to read the next one in the series.
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Juggernaut (Adam Baker)
The Final Score - 8/10