Reviewed by H T Scott
Outpost H311 is based on the idea that previous to and during WWll, Adolf Hitler’s fascination with the occult and paranormal led to him conducting experiments and looking for religious artifacts. Other authors have tackled this concept resulting in many books based on this premise. So, what’s different about Sara Jayne Townsend’s novel?
The author has set her novel in the present for a start, also the characters in the book are not on a mission to find, research or prove anything about Hitler. Their purpose is to go on an oil expedition in the Arctic on behalf of OLKON Energy. The story begins when they are aboard a corporate flight bound for the Arctic. Made up of an American Marine-Jake, Andres the pilot, Ellen a British geologist, her American counterpart Daniel,Nathan a finance representative,Allison the project manager,David an engineer, Neeta a documentary maker and Pete her cameraman. Once aboard the flight, they get caught up in a storm that causes them to go off course and crash.This unhappy accident results in this group of former strangers, having to trust each other.
As survivors they are stranded in an inhospitable environment with no means to contact civilisation, as the radio was damaged in the crash. This is bad enough, but the pilot is fatally injured and as far as anyone can ascertain no one else can fly a plane. The survivors are all important to the plot but the main protagonists are Ellen and Jake. The later along with David, take charge and set about trying to find help, which means leaving the group behind. Jake, Ellen and David come across some sort of military installation and upon further investigation find that is a viable, if somewhat creepy, option to the crashed plane.
From here the story really starts to gain momentum. People start to turn up dead, injuries sustained in the crash miraculously heal and there is a unexplainable seventy year old supply of fresh food. Along with this, the noise in the walls and sealed off parts of the complex enhance the taunt atmosphere the survivors are experiencing.
I thought the hostility of being stranded in the Arctic as well as finding out that the outpost belonged to the Nazi’s gives the story a twist that I certainly haven’t seen before. It’s a good backdrop that emphasizes the desperation of the situation. Also the use of Norse mythology, rather than Christianity is original and fits with being in the Arctic. As far as I’m aware no other author has implied that Hitler had an interest in Norse mythology.
Sara Jayne Townsend builds good characters giving each a believable back story, as the reader you do have favorites. The tension she builds between characters is also very real. In particular, I thought, the dynamic between Nathan and Allison who tolerate each other because they are stranded together was totally believable. As the reader you know in real life they wouldn’t go near one another. What I felt was not needed was the flirtation between Ellen and Jake. I felt that their companionship through joint struggles was enough for the reader to infer a possible eventual relationship, the author didn’t need to elaborate. However it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
On the whole it is a good book with an original story line and well built characters that are all vital to the story.