Audiobook Review: The Anomaly by Michael Rutger
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Series: Book 1 of The Anomaly Files
Publisher: Hachette Audio (June 19, 2018)
Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
Narrator: Brandon Williams
Finding that I needed a change of pace after reading a string of heavier sci-fi and fantasy books, I decided to check out The Anomaly Files by Michael Rutger, the pen name of screenwriter and suspense/horror/sci-fi novelist Michael Marshall. The second volume The Possession recently came out this summer which was what originally drew me to the series, but of course, being a stickler for reading in order, I wanted to start with The Anomaly.
The story begins with an introduction to protagonist Nolan Moore, an amateur archaeologist and the host of an esoteric documentary web series about the strange, the paranormal, and the odd. If it’s something that can’t be explained or sounds like it could be a good basis for a conspiracy theory, you can bet The Anomaly Files will be there on the ground covering it. And thus explains how Nolan and his crew find themselves at the Grand Canyon, hoping to retrace the steps of a turn-of-the-century explorer who claims to have discovered the mouth of a deep cavern system hidden in the side of the rocky walls. Thanks to a generous donation by a mysterious foundation, for once the team is actually well-funded and equipped to go searching for this fabled cavern rumored to contain all sorts of ancient rock paintings and artifacts which would dramatically alter our understanding of human history. And now, Nolan hopes to make a name for himself by finding it and documenting its all on his show.
Also along for this ride are Ken, Nolan’s good friend and producer; Molly, who manages the team’s operations and generally solves problems and makes things happen; Pierre, their inexperienced but capable cameraman; Feather, the show’s flighty and the gung-ho assistant; Dylan, the transport and logistics guy; and finally, the skeptical and no-nonsense Gemma, an outside reporter smelling a good interest story in Nolan’s expedition. While no one really wanted to acknowledge it, they all knew from the get-go that the project was a long shot, and yet against all odds, the team finds what looks to be a cave opening high up in the canyon rocks, right in the area it’s supposed to be. Ecstatic, our characters waste no time in exploring their incredible discovery, but as they say, be careful what you wish for. Nolan ends up finding the prehistoric treasures and paintings he came to seek, but also a whole lot more. Soon, trapped in the labyrinthine caverns with a threat older than time, and horrors they can never hope to comprehend, the crew find themselves in a desperate fight for survival.
While not perfect, there’s still no denying it: The Anomaly was exactly what I’d hoped for—a bone-chilling suspense/thriller with an archeological bent to get my blood pumping. It’s what I had wanted out of Christopher Golden’s Ben Walker series but did not get—a story with an intriguing mystery at its center that also reads like an adventure with plenty of paranormal elements and even a strong dose of body horror mixed in. That the author is also a screenwriter is all too evident in the novel’s structure, which unfolds like a movie, i.e. our cast of characters head off into an unknowingly terrifying situation, whereupon they are picked off one by one and the audience gets to guess who will come out alive and who will not. It’s not the most original, but it sure is effective.
I would also avoid this book if you’re claustrophobic. One of the things I loved most about it was the oppressive atmosphere and the sense it gave of the inescapable blackness closing in all around me. And then there’s what the characters experience in all that darkness. A rank smell coming from one of the rooms of the cavern. Mysterious lights and objects in underground pools that are crystal clear one moment and then slimy with algal gunk the next. The hair-raising feeling of being watched by alien eyes, of being hunted by a stronger and much faster predator. Fleeting glimpses of movement in the shadows and slithery light brushes against your skin. All this is guaranteed to send shivers up your spine.
To be honest, I’m not looking to be too picky here, since I came to this novel in search of pure escapism and fun, which was delivered to me in spades. But if I had to level a few criticisms at it, I felt the intro’s pacing could have afforded to lose some of the setup in order to bring us faster into the meat of the plot, and the ending could have also used a little tweaking to give the action of the climax more impact and not have it feel so drawn out. I wasn’t too sold on how neatly everything wrapped up either, but then I suppose we needed a have a clean slate from which to launch the sequel—which I most certainly will be reading.
All told, what you see is what you’ll get when it comes to The Anomaly, and I mean that as the highest compliment. After having been disappointed time and again by misplaced expectations and deceptive book descriptions, it’s was refreshing and satisfying to find a novel so well-written, intensely atmospheric, and just plain horrific, gruesome and fun.