Audiobook Review: The Drift by C.J. Tudor
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: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Random House Audio (January 19, 2023)
Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrators: Richard Armitage, Nathalie Buscombe, Rachel Handshaw
The Drift was a highly anticipated novel for me, and it was one that C.J. Tudor herself had written at length about in the author notes that were included in her last book, the short story collection A Sliver of Darkness. Not only did she seem very excited for her fans to read it, it also sounded like a pet project into which she had poured her blood, sweat, and tears. Now that I’ve read it, I can attest to The Drift being Tudor’s most ambitious work to date.
Three storylines unfold in tandem in this taut thriller set to the backdrop of a pandemic. The world’s population has been decimated, with most having died to the deadly plague while those who survive it are left a shell of themselves. People live sequestered in isolated areas, sending infected individuals to places like “the Retreat”, a mysterious research facility which serves as quarantine zone and where government scientists conduct experiments to try to find a cure.
As the story opens, a young medical student named Hannah awakens inside a mangled transport bus after it had swerved off the road in the middle of a snowstorm. Trapped alongside a handful of fellow survivors, she must try to find a way out of their predicament, though soon it is revealed that their coach may have been sabotaged and there is at least one among them hiding a secret about their infection status. Meanwhile, another character named Meg is also awakening to total chaos and murder. The former police detective finds herself suspended high above the ground in a cable car with strangers, and one of them is dead. No one remembers how they got there, all they know is they were supposed to be enroute to the Retreat. And finally, we also meet Carter, an employee of the Retreat who returns to the research center after running an errand to find the power out and a corpse at the bottom of the pool.
As I said, The Drift is ambitious, as evidenced by the many threads it attempts to establish, and as someone who has read all of Tudor’s books, I can safely say none of her previous ones have been quite so complex. But sometimes, that can backfire. With so much going on, the story does demand a lot of patience, and I’ll admit there were times I felt a bit too overwhelmed to give much of it, especially in the beginning. Who were all these people? How are they all connected? Will any of this ever make sense?
Fortunately, the answer is yes, but the plot does take a windy, twisted path to all the answers. In the process, I did get to know the characters quite well. Hannah, Meg, and Carter are equally in dire straits, facing their own harrowing challenges. Hannah turns out to have the most intriguing backstory, as events gradually reveal more about who she is and where she came from. Meg’s story, on the other hand, is a more tragic one involving the loss of her young daughter, whom she is still grieving. Then there’s Carter, who isn’t trapped like Hannah and Meg are, but is in a tight spot nonetheless. In a way, he fills the role of the classic survivalist in an apocalypse, kicking ass and taking names. Expect a lot of bloodshed as the bodies pile up.
Speaking of which, there is some excellent world-building. Zombie horror has received renewed interest with shows like The Last of Us, and it was hard not to make comparisons and see some parallels while reading. Those infected by the virus in The Drift are called Whistlers because of the sounds they make due to their ravaged lungs. Gaunt, savage and pale, they roam the wilderness in groups, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting traveler. The government is also not to be trusted, as they will go to any length to eliminate anyone suspected of being sick. Existence in this world is like living in a dystopian nightmare.
If you enjoy these types of stories, I think you will have a great time. As a caveat, the plot can get a little confusing and meandering, not to mention how certain parts can go completely off-the-rails. Interestingly, I find this to be very different than C.J. Tudor’s previous novels which I find to be way more subtle and atmospheric, and which is what I actually prefer. For that reason, I wouldn’t say The Drift is my favorite of her books, though it was still a very entertaining and exciting read and I would recommend it for anyone in the mood for something wild, punchy, and suspenseful.
I’ve been eyeing this one with keen interest so, despite the minor “hiccups” you mentioned, I believe it will prove to be a very engaging read. With zombies…. 😉
Thanks for sharing!
It’s different from her other books for sure, took a bit of time for me to get used to the new pacing and tone, but it was fun!
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I’m really enjoying The Last of Us. I may have to make this my first C.J. Tudor book.
Yeah, I was totally getting those zombie plague vibes from this!
I’m glad you compared this to her other books. As this was the first one I read, and it was a little too over the top for me, I was hesitant at first to check out her other books. But atmospheric is more to my liking, so I’ll definitely read more😁
Haha yeah, her other books aren’t quite so over the top…though they can be quite crazy too in other ways 😉
Damn what a world!!!
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Sold. I’ve been debating this one, so you’ve talked me into it, even though it does sound very ambitious and a bit off the rails at times, like you said. Good to know going in, but I just love the sound of The Retreat and the intensity!
Haha, as long as you don’t mind some ultra violence along with the over-the-top, you’re good! 😀
I like the sound of this and I enjoyed reading your review. Are you watching The Last of Us? If so, as someone who hasn’t played the game(s), how does it compare? I enjoyed the first episode but felt it lost momentum in 2 and 3. Episodes 4 and 5 were much better, in my opinion. Especially the character development of Joel and Ellie. And that brilliant action scene in Ep.5 involving a burning truck and what it causes to happen. That was a Wow moment for me!
Yes, I’ve been watching The Last of Us! I haven’t caught up with the latest episode yet though, but the first two were almost exactly how the story in the game played out. To the point where I was watching the “making of” feature after episode 1 and had to fight not to roll my eyes when they were praising the acting and emotions of Joel and his daughter during that scene where she was dying because all they did was recreate the scene in the game since it was the EXACT SAME! LOL! Episode 3 was when they strayed a little, but in my eyes that was mostly a filler episode, as you’ve pointed out. Episode 4 gets back into the action and I’m really hoping 5 will continue the trend. Going to watch it soon, your comments about it give me hope!
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The second half of Episode 5 made me want to re-watch the episode! What I found a bit strange is that they appear to have left it until Episodes 4 & 5 to make Joel and especially Ellie likeable. I’m cautiously optimistic for the rest of the series now. Oh yeah, and how good does it look. It’s certainly beautifully shot.
Nice, I look forward to it! And Ellie was definitely much more likeable in the game.
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It’s nice to see when an author can try something a bit different from their usual fare and do a great job with it. Glad you enjoyed this one. I’ve yet to try this author.