"Savage Island" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Silver Shamrock Publishing
Written by Brian Moreland
2021, 147 pages, Fiction
Released on 29th June 2021
If you’re seeking a fast-paced and very entertaining read, Brian Moreland’s latest novella, Savage Island, delivers in buckets and spades with four thirty-somethings stranded on a deadly tropical island in a remote part of the Philippines, which is sadly lacking a well-stocked cocktail bar. It is not a deep or complex read, but alternatively delivers a nicely paced story which cleverly sets the scene in the first 50% of the 147-pages and ramps up the action in the second half. Because I enjoyed the convincing character in the opening stanza, I was 100% invested in the two best friends who find themselves in deep trouble when the dangers of the island are revealed.
If you’ve never come across Brian Moreland, Savage Island is a great place to start. However, I would also highly recommend Tomb of Gods (2020), which is one of my favourite novels of last year and features in my Horror DNA top ten novels. It is a terrific story with a team of 1930s archaeologists leading an expedition deep below a newly discovered Egyptian tomb and finds much more than they bargained for. This novel is a nightmare journey which takes Egyptian mythology into wildly uncharted territory.
Savage Island is the perfect length for a novella, which I read in two sittings and if I had more time could easily have sped straight through it. Lifelong best friends Amy and Jasmine are on a dream holiday in the Philippines, as Jasmine is going through a divorce after a messy break-up and needs both a change of scenery and excitement. Amy is keen to support her bestie, as when she was married their friendship drifted, and the holiday is seen by both of them as a means of healing the broken bridges of their long-standing friendship.
The first strength of Savage Island is that both these characters are well-rounded, believable and have very different personalities. Amy is very reserved and struggles to let her hair down, whilst Jasmine is hunting for a one-night stand and no-strings-attached sex. As the story drifts towards the island, these personal conflicts come to a head and the internal ‘worrier’ dialogue of Amy is contagious, whilst she also wants to support her old friend without coming across as an old fuddy-duddy. There is another reason for this, a dark backstory which flicks back to a horrific incident from their childhoods and is nicely dropped into the plot on several occasions.
Early in the story, the women meet Ted and Dom, and the author skilfully shrouds the genuine intentions of the two men scouting locations for a horror film around the remote or uncharted Philippine islands. Amy is an anxious person by nature and I tapped into her fears long before the blood begins to spill on the island. Her more reserved character leads to very believable insecurities on the island, such as her bikini showing too much skin when events get more threatening. Her emotional vulnerability pushes the quality of the novella up a notch as she is dragged further and further from her comfort zone.
The second half of Savage Island is a wild change of pace and I enjoyed the fact that Brian Moreland does not make it immediately obvious what the horror truly is, but when it arrives, the escalation is terrific, freaky, and painfully brutal. The sandy beach and crystal waters of the lagoon are wonderfully described and before long the tourists are in a world of pain with little hope on the horizon. I do not want to say too much more about the plot, but it has a serious bang with vividly described jungle scenes, some of which are very graphic and on a few occasions had me wincing.
Dumb tourists getting stalked and killed on a remote tropical island is nothing new or original. However, Brian Moreland brings both verve and style to a familiar story which quickly has the reader humming to the beat of the jungle drums as they pray Amy and Jasmine will live long enough to have one final pina colada at the hotel they wish they never left! Savage Island might not be your traditional summer beach read, but it is great fun from an author who is well worth investigating further.
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