Operation: Syria by William Meikle


Operation: Syria by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A trip to a war zone to rescue trapped archaeologists finds the S-Squad in a remote desert region of lost cities and temples. They quickly discover that they are not alone among the ruins.

First they find the bodies, then they find the webs, then they’re in real trouble when the spiders attack.

Big spiders.

Lots of them.

Captain Banks had been about to ask his commanding officer for some leave for their team after they had come through a number of bizarre missions in a very short timeframe. Instead, Captain Banks is told his team is needed to leave for Syria – immediately – to rescue a group of archaeologists who have issued an emergency call after being attacked by rebels. Banks and the S-Squad gear up, hoping this will be a quick in and out, but they quickly discover that the rebels are the least of their concerns.

I have read a number of these books and always find them a delightful romp of a tale. On the shorter side of a full-length novel, I’ve found they are always quick into the action with plenty of large-scale monsters, a bunch of energy, plenty of sweary Scottish squaddies and a dollop or two of fun and plot. They are easy to read, and I love the authors tone and pace – I’ve always found them quick and a delight to read. They’re an adventurous blast in so many ways I love them. If you’re a fan of B grade “monster” movies this is an excellent series to sink your teeth into.

There is always an interesting amount of character growth in these stories, but I have to be honest the characters are more the vessels for the plot and storyline – not the driving force. This time the monster-of-the-day is enormous spiders and I enjoyed how the author meshed this with the archaeologists and the dig they were working on. While the plot wasn’t overly convoluted, that wasn’t what I wanted or needed for this story and I absolutely felt that the balance between action, monsters and the characters (both the archaeologists and the S-Squad team) was really well handled.

Switch off your brain, grab a drink then relax and enjoy this fast paced, fun and light story. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to dig into the next.

Mysterious Island by Greig Beck


Mysterious Island – Lemuria by Greig Beck
Book 1
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

On a desolate beach in far northern Scotland, the winter storms have been washing up all manner of things since time began. But buried in the center of one smaller iceberg is a shard of ancient Viking pottery telling a partial tale of a hidden mysterious island beyond the ice and mist, that was home to a great treasure and even greater horrors.

Thawing in the same block of ice was a rotting flap of skin that refused to be identified but had similar skin patterns to a creature not seen for 100 million years.

Now, Troy Strom and the enigmatic Elle Burgan race to find the mysterious island of legend, while staying ahead of a group of brutal killers who claim to be the rightful owners of the greatest prize of all – Odin’s heart.

Troy Strom met Elle Burgan when they were children, and both drawn to the larger than life displays of Viking history in the museum. As adults they reconnected again on the path to finding the mysterious hidden island of Lemuria – an ancient take they both believed truly existed. They quickly discover they’re not the only people on this trail, and the dangers lurking everywhere aren’t just from the adventure and hidden monsters – but from the other seekers as well.

I really enjoyed this full-length novel. While it’s only the first in a trilogy it has all the hallmarks of an exceptional adventure tale – a hidden location, dangerous monsters, secret treasure and riches and of course a huge cast of merciless killers determined to take it all for themselves. A fair bit of this story is “setting up” for the next two installments, but I was pleased the author still kept the tension high and the pace moving forward at a good clip.

There is a wide cast of characters, some just cameos with a defined purpose and others part of the various larger teams that will clearly be part of the reader’s journey through all three books. I feel some more action-orientated readers might feel the pace of this book, particularly in the beginning, is a little slow. There is quite a bit of foundation to lay – a lot of the history and Viking lore, a strong and realistic explanation of how the various puzzle pieces were discovered and helped lead our teams to finding the location of the mysterious island and also just the logistics of setting up such an expedition. Personally, I feel this was all done really well, and with enough movement, murder and mayhem to keep the pace moving right along and not lagging in the slightest. I also felt a lot of this history, background and knowledge was vital to help explain why the search for this island was so important and how it could have stayed hidden for so many centuries.

Even though this is the first book in a trilogy I feel the story is quite well contained within just this book and absolutely I feel it can be read by itself. There isn’t really a cliff-hanger style of ending which I was very grateful for, but equally it’s quite clear there is another book that will carry the story on as there are plot points left unfinished. This is an excellent first installment though and while I hope the remaining two books come soon – there is not that feeling of being left hanging to make me irritated and impatient with the wait.

Beck is a brilliant author when it comes to adventure, monsters and a rollicking good tale. He excels at blending history and monsters; danger and adventure and I feel this is a book where all those exceptional talents of his really shine. I feel many readers will love this book as much as I did, and I can’t wait for the next two in the series to be released.

The City Below by William Meikle


The City Below by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

THE CITY BELOW continues the adventures detailed in THE LAND BELOW and THE SEA BELOW

Our adventurers have escaped a conflagration only to find themselves in a great underground city.

They quickly discover they are not alone.

And when a natural disaster threatens to engulf them it becomes a battle for survival.

Can they find the route home to the sun before it is closed to them forever?

Danny, Ed and Stefan have made a monumental discovery – a hidden city under the Earth. With paves streets, temples, homes and even terraced gardens the abandoned landscape was equal parts eerie and amazing. Can the three adventurers find their way back up top amidst all the dangers that lurk below?

This story picks up exactly where the previous story left off (The Sea Below) and in a similar vein to both the other books in the series is an action orientated adventure style of short story. This time though, Danny and Stefan are determined to escape back up to the surface and Ed, too, soon realizes the three of them need to regroup and agrees to head for the surface.

I have to admit I’ve come to adore our three main adventurers – the younger Ed who has an unquenchable thirst for adventure and discovery, the more elderly Stefan who remains brave and strong – the wiser, more seasoned local and calm head of the ground. And Danny, the old soldier and reluctant hero of the group. I love how while the three characters are quite different, they’re each at heart strong, brave and heroes in their own right, and through those adventures they’ve forged a friendship and bond that has been amazing to follow along with and watch develop. While I absolutely found their time discovering amazing sights and monsters under the ground has been well worth the read – these three characters and their interactions, growth and slowly building friendship has been a true joy to read and journey along with.

While our group’s explorations are full of new discoveries, danger still lurks everything – from enemies as well as monsters. I really enjoyed the pace to this story – it wasn’t crazily fast but it was definitely a good clip most adventure readers should really enjoy.

This book seemed to me to span a good mixture of adventure, suspense and paranormal “monsters dwelling below the earth” and I feel should appeal to a wide range of readers and they should thoroughly enjoy it. While it can definitely be picked up by itself, I feel reading this will have a stronger impact and better experience by going back and reading the two previous installments first. These are short, sharp, witty and exciting stories and well worth the investment in reading them in order.

Escape From The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck


Escape From The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

“Help me, it’s Ally. Please help me.”

A ghostly, sobbing voice is detected from the depths of Russia’s Kola super deep borehole – 9 miles down. A Russian team is dispatched in a desperate rescue mission to find the woman. But how did she get there?

Meanwhile, the Americans prepare their own expedition after a new rift leading to the center of the Earth has been discovered at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific Ocean. Mike Monroe and Jane Baxter agree to accompany the team of soldiers and scientists to seek a compound that is potentially a cure for cancer… a cancer that is slowly eating away at them, and the legacy of their time in the boiling red hell at the core of the planet.

Now, a two-pronged mission seeks answers from the Earth’s interior, a place of impenetrable jungles, fallen kingdoms, and monstrous creatures that have never been seen on the surface and have evolved into nightmarish, deadly forms.

But there is something else – a mountainous ancient being that is as old as the world and has been awaiting them. And this time will not let them leave.

Escape from the Center of the Earth is the final edition of the blockbusting Center Earth trilogy and closes the series with a climax that will blow reader’s minds.

Jane and Mike are both fighting the long-term consequences of their two previous expeditions down into the center of the earth. Each determined to save the other, will this final trip allow them to close this chapter of their lives?

I have really enjoyed this trilogy and found this third and final installment to meet – and even exceed – my every expectation. That’s no small feat, I am a huge fan of Greig Beck and now pretty much expect a superlative read from each of his books. Fantastic blending of horror, mystery/suspense, thriller, sci-fi, techno thrillers and best of all an adventurous and amazing expedition style of story are all things that I expect from Mr. Beck and in this story he did not disappoint. I feel it’s important for readers to know this story stands very well by itself – but it is equally very clearly the final part in the trilogy, and I absolutely think readers will have a much more encompassing and enjoyable adventure if they read all three books back-to-back.

I was both cautious and excited to read about Ally. Her part towards the end of the second story was one of the major things that really, truly stuck with me for weeks after I finished reading Return to the Center Of the Earth. While much of it was my own imagination and the somewhat abrupt ending to her section, I feel anyone who reads the second book will completely understand why Ally stuck with me – in both a good and a bad way – for many weeks. So, knowing her story wasn’t over and realizing this book would progress that storyline was both wonderful and frightening for me. Without spoilers – I found myself impressed and deeply satisfied with how this story handles Ally and both the realism of her character and the progress and conclusion that was given to me as a reader. The storyline as a whole absolutely won’t be every reader’s cup of tea (and indeed for some parts it wasn’t to my taste either), but I can’t deny this is one of those stories and trilogies, a character arc that just really hits you in the heart and soul and stays with you. For good or bad it made a serious impact on me and is something I will think and talk about for a long time to come.

Jane and Mike and another set of hard-ass military professionals also were an amazing expedition party. As one would expect there are new monsters, new dangers and new wonders all set in store for them and the reader journeying along. I was thrilled when one of the characters was introduced to the party. No spoilers – but it’s a very well-known character who many fans of Grieg Beck will be hopefully as excited as I was to see added to this adventure. It really helped make the book even more amazing for me, personally, as it’s one of my all-time favourite trilogies of Beck’s.

Readers looking for an adventure, a thrill, a bit of a scare and a can’t-be-beaten “expedition party getting eaten by the monsters” style of story should absolutely be as enthralled as I was. I totally think readers should go back to the first story and read all three, but if you happen to find a copy of this just lying around somewhere then pick it up and devour it – for sure. This is an amazing book, and I can’t wait for more from this author. Highly recommended.

To The Center Of The Earth by Grieg Beck


To The Center Of The Earth by Grieg Beck
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

An old woman locked away in a Russian asylum has a secret—knowledge of a 500-year-old manuscript written by a long-dead alchemist that will show a passage to the mythical center of the Earth.

She knows it’s real because 50 years ago, she and a team traveled there. And only she made it back.

Today, caving specialist Mike Monroe leads a crew into the world’s deepest cave in the former Soviet Union. He’s following the path of a mad woman, and the words of an ancient Russian alchemist, that were the basis of the fantastical tale by Jules Verne.

But what horrifying things he finds will tear at his sanity and change everything we know about evolution and the world, forever.

In the tradition of Primordia, Greig Beck delivers another epic retelling of a classic story in an electrifying and terrifying adventure that transcends the imagination.

“Down there, beyond the deepest caves, below the crust and the mantle, there is another world.”

When a million dollar prize – as well as some serious bragging rights – are put up for grabs for the caving team who can travel the deepest under the earth the race is on. Two separate teams decide independently to try their luck with a long closed down cave in Russia, one that’s rumored not only the be the deepest anywhere on earth, but also possibly far more than anyone realizes. What the two teams discover is a whole new world – equal parts paradise and hell.

I really enjoyed this new adventure story from Mr Beck. His stories are always really really well balanced with both thriller, monsters, discovery of the unknown and adventure and this one certainly delivers in spades. I was quickly drawn in both by the characters, but also the caving adventure itself. Readers who enjoy a good “let’s discover something new” story should certainly find this suits their tastes, and readers who also enjoy “monsters eat most of the party” will find this book ticks a lot of those sorts of boxes as well. I’d hesitate to label this story as horror though – while there are certainly “monsters come and eat the characters” moments and there’s absolutely a few chilling scenes with alien creatures found deep deep under the earth – I’m not sure it really fits the “horror” genre in the sense of gore or serial killers or a more typical sense of a horror novel. Readers who are squeamish or not interested in monsters going bump in the dark style of books probably should shy away or be prepared to skim a few scenes – but I feel aside from that it’s not really horror at all but more adventure/thriller in style.

I also really appreciated the variation in the characters and how none of them were cartoonish or overdrawn. Even the antagonist was – while still not hero material – practical and willing to work with the team when the chips were down and it was very much an “us verses the monsters” mentality. I really really enjoyed this, partly because it would have been very easy (and far less satisfying I feel) if the antagonist had been an overblown villain character, but I could well believe how tempting that might have been. Indeed I found Mr Beck taking the harder road and notching down the characters arrogance and bravado and having the two teams come together and work in tandem as one merged team really satisfying and I was so pleased about this it really stuck with me.

As a longtime fan of this author I was amused at a few Easter Egg like tidbits where I recognized the author cleverly sneaking in subtle pointers to some of his other books where fans will notice this cheeky nod but others shouldn’t feel anything too amiss by the seemingly casual comments. It gave me a chuckle and flush of pride for each one I caught and it made reading this book all the sweeter to know I’d not only caught the reference but read and own the book as well.

Overall this was an amazing book and one I am pleased to have in print as I definitely expect to enjoy it a number more times in the future. I am also impressed with my own foresight – I have the sequel already purchased and ready to go. I’m thrilled I can move right onto it and not have to wait!

Readers who enjoy adventure stories, caving stories and monsters eating everyone should be as deeply satisfied with this story as I was. Mr Beck is a masterful storyteller and I feel this tale is well balanced, engrossing and sure to have you up reading half the night. A brilliant read and one I shall enjoy again in the near future.

The Sea Below by William Meikle


The Sea Below by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Horror, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The adventurers from THE LAND BELOW return to the cavern under the Austrian Alps.

At first it is a rescue mission, but soon Danny, Stefan, Ed and Elsa find themselves in a fight for survival.

A perilous journey across an underground sea brings them to a lost island and fresh adventures, but their attempts to return to the surface only serve to make their situation worse.

Now they must flee for their lives, with all the denizens of that strange island at their heels.

When Danny received Stefan’s missive – that their mutual friend Ed had gone back underground to the caverns and other world they had recently discovered in an old caving site – Danny doesn’t hesitate. With little money to his name and even less reason to stay in London, Danny decides to go and offer whatever help his friends could use from an old soldier. Even though his dreams were still shadowed from his previous experience, Danny has no real idea of what’s in store for them all.

I really enjoyed this short story and feel it’s an excellent, quick read for those looking for an old school action/adventure with a bit of mystery and horror thrown in for good measure. While this is a sequel to The Land Below, readers should be reassured that they absolutely don’t have to have read that first installment to really enjoy this story. Even better, half the first few chapters aren’t spent re-hashing the previous book. While there isn’t much time spent describing Danny’s journey to the cave site, nor their descent down into the underground world the story is set in, I feel this time the story really reaps the rewards of having all it’s action centered fully on the caves, monsters and adventure the men have below ground. While the book is a self-contained adventure, there is not a traditional style of “happily ever after” ending. I don’t particularly mind this with mystery and adventure books, and I certainly don’t feel like the ending is a cliff-hanger or without suitable resolution, but I do feel readers should be aware the ending isn’t a traditional tying up of all the loose ends.

William Meikle – in my opinion – is an exemplary storyteller when it comes to short, action-paced and spooky stories. His writing style really flourishes in this sense and I feel he manages with true skill to straddle a number of genres. While not horror in a traditional sense, his story has monsters and things going bump in the dark. The action is there from virtually the first page and the pace is fast and I feel it really draws the reader along at a breakneck pace. I also really enjoy how he skillfully weaves the story so it’s impossible to tell what sort of period/year these two stories are set in. There are lamps, boats, trains and pulleys, engineering feats so it doesn’t feel “really” old – but the lack of computers and phones also indicates it’s not necessarily the modern world as we know it. Then again, phones and computers won’t work so deeply underground, so given the story’s setting this lack of modern technology indicating an older time period is seriously debatable. Underground caves in the middle of the isolated countryside don’t lend the story to the internet, wifi reception or satellite coverage. While I can’t quite figure this is a truly contemporary time period, I feel this story really can’t be slotted into a historical setting either – but more a vague, hazy “in between” type of time of not right now but neither in the distant past. And oddly, I enjoy the fact this story doesn’t give answers to every question that the reader will come up with. Some things are left to the readers own imagination – and isn’t that the point of reading, really?

Readers looking for an intense, fun and slightly scary monster/adventure/treasure hunt style of story should not find themselves disappointed with this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word and I know there will be a number of happy re-reads of this to come. Recommended.

Operation: Loch Ness by William Meikle


Operation: Loch Ness by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

S-Squad are relieved to be home, and even an order to investigate animal mutilations at a local wildlife park does not seem like an onerous detail.

But things take a turn to the twilight zone all too quickly around the S-Squad, and even their homeland is not immune.

Something is feeding, ravenously, on animals, wildlife, and now people in the Scottish Highlands, and the trail leads to only one place, a place of legends, and the dark waters of Loch Ness.

The S-Squad gents are back for another rollicking adventure, this time in their own back yard. Called in to sort out a rogue, unknown animal that decimated a local wildlife reserve the four squaddies are soon embroiled in another adventure with an enormous beastie and more weirdness that defies logical explanation.

I’m a huge fan of these short stories. They’re exactly like reading a B-grade movie and just as deliciously (albeit guiltily) satisfying. This time I was interested that Meikle seemed to mesh a number of his various series together in this one book. A fair bit of his magical world crossed over into his paranormal/big beastie world and I found the results highly interesting and really well handled. To a degree it felt odd that the magical elements were scattered amongst the paranormal and military setting – but I have to be honest, if any of Meikle’s S-Squad stories (so far) could have carried it off – Loch Ness in the wilds of Scotland was the only setting I feel have the magical elements appearing to make sense.

I particularly adore this series because each book can very happily be read on its own – but we also get more character growth and insight into each squad member as the stories progress. There’s also something just really appealing for me, personally, about how quick the pace of these stories are and how over the top each situation becomes. These stories are the ultimate guilty pleasure and I am always excited for the next to appear.

Readers looking for a deeply complex plot or very heavy style of story won’t find that here. While there is indeed a good adventure – and an interesting and slightly complex magical/supernatural component to this particular story – at heart this is a fun rollick of a story that is meant to be enjoyed and not dissected and intellectually examined. Relax, have a drink and roll along with the squaddies – it’s a trip well worth taking.

Seed Of Evil by Greig Beck


Seed Of Evil by Greig Beck
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

There’s something growing deep in the old Angel Mine – Something the Native Americans warned us about – And now it’s rising again.

Mitch Taylor, ex-Special Forces medic, is seeking a quiet life in the town of Eldon. Tragedy has dogged his life, and he sees the small friendly place as a second chance. But buried deep below the friendly smiles and quaint painted houses is an old abandoned mine that holds a legend of an ancient and terrible god.

In the mine’s labyrinthine depths, something has been growing, something from a time of myth when ancient gods strode the Earth and mankind hadn’t even stood on two legs.

But when the earth shakes and the groundwater rises, it reaches out and those it touches begin to deform and reshape into the image of their god. Their one goal—to feed their ancient master deep below the ground.
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The Seed of Evil is a horrifying legend of an ancient god that turned out to be real.

After a heavy mortar round literally blew Captain Mitch Taylor’s world apart he struggled to come to grips with civilian life. With almost everyone on his last mission dead – or practically so – he knew he had to keep moving forwards. Trying for a second chance in a small, sleepy country town in Missouri, Mitch comes to love the little place – until an earthquake re-awakens something deep underground and Mitch once more realizes he needs to fight for his new life if any of them are going to have a chance.

I admit I am a huge fan of Grieg Beck’s work – both his Alex Hunter series and his Matt Kearns stories as well as numerous stand-alone books and trilogies. This book lives up to the high expectations I now have of his work in general. Part spooky fable, part military/action thriller, part action adventure this is a crazy and excitingly wild ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. Something about Beck’s writing style just tends to grab me and drag me along, addicted like crack and turning the pages. I now know well enough not to start one of his stories late in the afternoon unless I want to be up until crazy hours of the morning or pull and all-night reading binge. I held off starting this book until a Public holiday when I started it shortly after breakfast and stayed at it until I finished the last page early in the evening. I was in no way disappointed and felt the d ay well used.

I was really pleased that Mitch’s character was realistic and engaging. The opening few scenes were graphic and strongly written to explain the devastation of his life being torn apart with his military action going badly pear shaped, but the scene wasn’t overly gory or written for the blood and deaths to be titillating. The scene also wasn’t dwelled upon, even though those shadows and the weight of it clearly carried through with Mitch. I felt the author struck a really good balance here of realistic writing, and consequences for Mitch’s actions and the grief and weight he carried with him without bogging up the story or being maudlin. I also thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere the book held, part action/adventure but also part spooky fable or horror story. Beck in particular is an exemplary author for this sort of balance and I am rarely left disappointed in his story telling abilities or writing style.

Without giving too much plot away readers will find this story full of small-town secrets, an abandoned and quirky mine, varied and interesting characters and a few really believable and surprising plot twists (the bottled-water angle was amazing and a stroke of genius to my mind). Added together, these are all the necessary ingredients needed for a fantastic story. Throw in some military know-how, a deeply buried history of the towns previous disasters and just a dash of adventure and one word could easily sum up exactly how I found this story. Brilliant. I found the ending to be quite satisfying – but feel readers looking for a traditional or romantic “happy ever after” might not enjoy the ending as much as I did. I found it well resolved, strongly plotted and satisfying, but not a traditional sort of ending.

Readers looking for an intense, action filled and slightly spooky story should definitely check this out – as well as other stories written by this author. I enjoyed every minute of this and am looking forward to a re-read in the very near future.

The Land Below by William Meikle


The Land Below by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A treasure hunt into the deepest cave system in Europe takes a turn for the worst.

Now rather than treasure it is survival that is at the forefront of the spelunkers’ thoughts. But their attempt to escape out of the dark deep places is thwarted.

Men are not at home in the depths. But there are things that are, pale terrifying things.

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Things red in tooth and claw.

Ed has talked his hotheaded brother Thomas into investing some of their family fortune into looking for hidden treasure left by a Teutonic Knight deep in a cave. Ed had carefully researched the two-page map he found in an old manuscript and is sure something has been buried where they are heading, but Thomas is merely interested in the fame and glory. When Ed hires on Daniel Garland – a washed up army Captain – for protection is causes friction with Thomas who is certain they have no need for a guard. As they meet a final member who joins their small team, their adventure takes them deeper beneath the earth they find there are far more dangers and monsters than any of them expected.

I am a massive fan of William Meikle’s S-Squad series and have read a number of his other books and enjoyed them to varying levels as well. I’m also often a sucker for a “expedition goes into the cave and finds monster that eat the party” style of book and was happy to give this one a whirl. I was delighted by what I found and enjoyed the full length story immensely.

I struggled a little to discover exactly which historical time period (or perhaps some “close but alternate” style of reality) this was set in as that aspect of the story was kept rather vague. It certainly isn’t a modern in the sense there were no cell phones or GPS and I’m leaning towards somewhere Victorian-ish as their headlamps were from encased flame rather than battery powered. Still, the time-period setting is not critical to the story and I feel readers who enjoy both past and present monster and adventure style stories should equally enjoy this book.

One thing I feel William Meikle absolutely excels in is his action/adventure and “big toothy monsters” plotlines. And this story has both these in spades. While I enjoyed the tension and interactions between Ed, Stefan, Thomas and Daniel it was the way they approached the cave and the monsters they faced within it that really captured my attention and had me up late into the evening turning the pages. I feel Meikle had an exceptional pace throughout the story and as the reader I felt the rising tension as the four main characters explored deeper into the caves. There was equal parts wonder and worry as the danger became more clear but – as you’d expect – the only way out was to continue going forwards.

Thrilling and just a little bit scary this was a brilliant story and one I greatly enjoyed. If there is a subsequent story after this I am very eager for it and will absolutely be purchasing it promptly. I can also very strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys this story try out Meikle’s S-Squad series which has many of the same strong positive points (start with “Infestation” and then move right along to “Operation: Antarctica”). With excellent characters that were unique and vividly different, some scary and amazing monsters, a grand adventure under the earth and a whole bunch of tension this story was excellently written and I feel should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Ice Cave by Toby J. Nichols


Ice Cave by Toby J. Nichols
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Saxon Smith is on the research trip of a lifetime in Antarctica to explore a remote ice cave system. A previous expedition found hints that the much warmer subsurface caves could support life and Saxon wants to make that discovery and make a name for himself.

The small team descends into a cavern hollowed out of the ice by volcanic activity expecting lichen and arthropods and maybe the remains of extinct life, what they find is a lost world of dinosaurs that have adapted to the permanent twilight, cool temperature, and constrained location.

The expedition now face a terrifying fight for survival against savage theropods that have learned to herd and trap, and with their ice cave ecosystem starting to fail, they’re ravenous.

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I absolutely love “monster eats the crew” style of stories and add in a Scientific exploration and Antarctica and there was no chance I could pass up on this story. I was really pleased therefore when my whim paid off and this was a great, quick read. I enjoyed Saxon’s character and also found the other three members of their party to be interesting and different enough they didn’t feel like cardboard cut outs. There was some understandable – though slightly cliched – tension between the other characters but since this is the authors first book I was willing to give him some slack. There’s also a few typo’s that I really feel the editors should have picked up and will hopefully be fixed in future editions.

That said I found the meat of the story to be really well handled. I enjoyed the pace – while the length of the story is somewhat short there isn’t a lot of fat or waffling which really pleased me. The story starts as the expedition is beginning – already entering the ice cave in Antarctica and we can see the various elements of the team dynamic already in play. This helped me get a good feel for the other characters and I was glad I enjoyed Saxon’s perspective and character.

Some readers might find a few small sections of the story a little too close to horror or gory for their liking. Personally, I felt the author walked a good balance between a monsters/realistic style of writing and going too far into the horror/thriller dark edginess. To be fair though, there is a bit of “blood and guts” once the monsters start killing off the party. So I feel readers should be aware that while there’s no titillation or glorification of the violence, neither is this a “behind closed doors” style of story either.

While the trope of “hidden ecosystem in Antarctica” is not new I felt the author brought enough novelty and his own imagination to the table that it felt fresh and kept my attention from the start. I admit I’m a sucker for these sorts of stories but I feel this book was really well written – particularly considering it’s the author’s first. I felt the monsters were extremely creepy and realistic – I got a few good frights while reading and the tension and thriller aspects of the story were really well handled.

I really enjoyed this story and will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author. Recommended.