Book Review: The White Road by Sarah Lotz...
A cutting-edge thriller about one man's quest to discover horror lurking at the top of the world.
Desperate to attract subscribers to his fledgling website, 'Journey to the Dark Side', ex-adrenalin junkie and slacker Simon Newman hires someone to guide him through the notorious Cwm Pot caves, so that he can film the journey and put it on the internet. With a tragic history, Cwm Pot has been off-limits for decades, and unfortunately for Simon, the guide he's hired is as unpredictable and dangerous as the watery caverns that lurk beneath the earth. After a brutal struggle for survival, Simon barely escapes with his life, but predictably, the gruesome footage he managed to collect down in the earth's bowels goes viral. Ignoring the warning signs of mental trauma, and eager to capitalise on his new internet fame, Simon latches onto another escapade that has that magic click-bait mix of danger and death - a trip to Everest. But up above 8000 feet, in the infamous Death Zone, he'll need more than his dubious morals and wits to guide him, especially when he uncovers the truth behind a decade-old tragedy - a truth that means he might not be coming back alive. A truth that will change him - and anyone who views the footage he captures - forever.
In many ways this book is reminiscent of the very dark but very brilliant horror film The Descent (in fact after finishing The White Road I rewatched it.) The first part of the book sees our protagonist attempting his way through some very dangerous Welsh caves. The book was written with such clarity and was so visceral that it felt like I was there. I could feel Simon's fear and dread.
As with Sarah Lotz previous two books (The Three and Day Four- of which I loved) fear is a strong theme throughout this novel. PTSD also features heavily as all the central characters are dealing with some sort of loss or past incident that still haunts them. Two of Sarah's biggest skills are suspense and ambiguity which are very much present here- I was questioning every twist and turn of this book. I really didn't know where it would end up as I know from her previous books Lotz will literally go in any direction and make it mind-blowingly good.
Simon was not the most likeable person but I still rooted for him. He pushed himself to his limits first in the caves and then on his Everest trek. This was probably my favourite part of the book. We got to follow him and his trekking companions as they gradually acclimatised themselves to the altitudes in order to reach the summit. More than once I found myself focusing on my breathing as they struggled in their environment. It looked at why people would take such a life threatening risk- just reading about it was scary enough!
This was a story of survival and a look at how people handle grief. Although I wouldn't say this was a horror per se there were definitely classic horror elements to it (the tell tale heart springs to mind.) I'm trying to type this review without giving any spoilers and too much of the plot away as I think it really is best going into this book not knowing too much about it. One thing I will say is if you want a thrilling and suspenseful read about someone pushing themselves to their literal limit and haunted by their past- a book that will take you on a journey you won't forget then pick up a copy of The White Road. You won't be disappointed.
I gave this book 4/5 on Goodreads.
The White Road is out May 4th and is available to pre-order in hardback here.
[HUGE thanks to Louise, Vero and Jenni at Hodder for providing me with a review copy.]