Book review

Apocalypse by Tim Bowler (2004)

Terrifying. But not necessarily satisfying. It depends how you like your stories. This one will leave you utterly bewildered, and if you are like me, you'll spend the next week trying to rationalise it, explain all the events satisfactorily.

It's simple. Kit and his parents are sailing their yacht. They're way out in the ocean somewhere and have been for weeks. But they have sailed into a strange place. The fog is disorienting, the seas are large, and the compass is playing up. But worse than any of that is the unaccountable feeling of fear that engulfs Kit, along with the dreams and the unearthly cries, and the extraordinary vision...

Are they actually lured onto the island, or do they make landfall on the island with the damaged Windflower despite the local malevolence? Either way, once they're on the island they can't easily get away without help from the residents:

Dad smiled and called down to him.
'Hello there!'
The man gave no answer. More figures started to appear from the other cottages, bearded men clothed in exactly the same way as this one, and women with thick grey dresses down to their ankles and shawls over their heads. There was no mistakingthe hostility in their faces. Dad forced another smile.
'Forgive us for this intrusion,' he said quickly. 'But our boat ran into the rock off the north end of the island. She nearly foundered but we managed to beach her in the cove. We'd be grateful for any help you can give us.'
None of the islanders replied. Instead they turned into a huddle and started muttering.

Believe me, there's no help here. The islanders are hostile:

He shuddered. He'd never seen a hatred like this before. It was as deep as it was inexplicable. He saw hands twitching round clubs, fists beating against thighs. Some of the women had bent down to pick up stones.

Obviously, the only thing to doin such circumstances is to repair the boat as well as you can and limp away from the island as soon as possible. Positively, the one thing you shouldn't do is allow yourselves to become separated.

In the early hours of the morning, whilst sleeping uneasily on the beach, Kit glimpses the figure of a girl, about his own age. He leaves his parents asleep and sets off after her. And that's the last he sees of his parents for a long and terrifying interlude.

Well, Kit. He certainly grows up during the interlude. He learns about different kinds of love. He learns about the power of good and evil, and he learns to trust. He learns about the depths of despair and the need for hope, always.

But he never really fathoms where he's been, and I'm not sure I do either:

'Where have you been, Kit? Where have you really been?'
...'I've walked into the past,' he said slowly. 'And into the future as well.'

As a straightforward spooky story about haunted oceans, I loved it. I found the link with global warming and present day Apocalypses tenuous and superfluous.But no matter! Best nail-biter I've read for a while. Earnestly recommended.

What can I read next?

Tim Bowler writes brilliant, absorbing, emotional books. If you would like to read another of his titles, have a look at this one:

If you like your books to be haunted, I think you would enjoy anything by David Almond. Have a look at these titles:

If you are a mature reader, I think you might enjoy these two titles by Jan Mark, who also likes to blur the line between dreams and reality in her writing:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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