Keene's homage to late friend and mentor Richard Layman moves at a blistering pace. A visceral, fast-paced narrative makes this an engrossing read, the type of novel that demands to be finished in a day or two. No moments or characters shine in particular, but it's an entertaining tale; suspenseful, full of gut-wrenching action: everything readers have come to expect from a Brian Keene novel.
They're cliché personified: the girl next door, the foul-mouthed mechanic with hidden substance, the determined mother, the alluring temptress, the uncouth redneck, the aloof “weird guy”, the nice guy hiding his inner geek, and the cold-hearted strategist willing to sacrifice anyone for his goals. They're among the cast of the popular reality television series Castaways, and on a deserted, remote tropical island they've gathered to compete for fame, glory, and most importantly: millions of dollars.
At first, it seems the average reality television show, full of physical challenges, shifting alliances, plots, blooming romance, simmering lust and sharp betrayal. Things change with reports of an impending tropical storm. Most of the crew is recalled from the island, but the cast, two cameramen and a producer are left behind to weather the storm's fury, because of course: the show must go on. What could spike the ratings better than the drama of a tropical storm?
However, this island isn't deserted...not at all. Something moves in the dark shadows, creatures that live deep in the island's caves. They're a dwindling race, slightly malnourished, whose stock has fallen to frequent birth defects. They are, however hungry...and not just for food, either. As the last crew member leaves for the safety of the ship anchored off-shore, the tropical rains moves in, and the real storm begins – one that will wash the beach red with blood before it ends.
Keene's versatility is already well proven, and “Castaways” shows what everyone already knows: that he's a storyteller at heart who wants to thrill and entertain. Perhaps most enjoyable is the ending, because it offers simple and reaffirming resolution for the reader, a rare and pleasurable treat.