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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Raft

This was yet another book I picked up at a whim.  I was in the library, and the title piqued my interest.  So I took it off the shelf and read the blurb:

Lydia and Martin Napier decide to get away from it all at a remote property in Far North Queensland [Australia].  It is their chance to spend time with their eight-year-old daughter, and also a chance to get their relationship back on track. The family hit the road for what they hope will be a taste of paradise.

Instead, they run into cyclone weather.  And as the rains stop, the floodwaters rise.

Caught up in the dramatic rescue of a policeman and his prisoner, within hours the family find themselves marooned on the roof of an isolated farmhouse.  With limited food and water, little hope of rescue, and a killer in their midst, they face the most terrifying ordeal of their lives.

A novel of heart-stopping suspense, The Raft is a deft psychological drama that will force you to keep turning the pages.

Interesting.  I suppose it was the blurb that made me borrow the book, though I must admit I also read the first few pages, to make sure it was decently written.

Within the first three chapters, I came to the conclusion that the author should have sued the blurb-writer.  Well, the blurb-writer was just doing his or her job, to sell the book, but this was truly under-rating it.  I really wondered if he or she had either (a) actually read the book, or (b) understood it.

So, let's see what I found.  First, we have a yuppie family, of two parents and one child.  The father has just been informed that his comic strip is going to be ... well, stripped from the franchise.  While his hunky hero, Zardan, has made megabucks in the past, Martin was silly enough to sign away his copyright, and now that there is a new CEO, who doesn't consider Zardan very sexy.

Martin's wife, Lydia, would like to be a fulltime mom (with lots of spare time at the gym) but her brother has talked them out of the Zardan millions with a really silly financial scheme, and so they are broke and she has to work.  And, while they have a lovely little daughter, the death of a son from meningitis lurks in the psyches of both.  Therefore, both are obsessive parents.  And, on the practical side, it looks as if they are going to have to get along on Lydia's salary.

So, weighed down with angst, they head off to Cairns (lovely town, great shopping center, good place to buy mosquito repellent, but surrounded by intimidating landscape) and then drive into the unknown, to spend a couple of weeks working through their problems at a farmhouse loaned by Lydia's boss.  And we all know that the Australian landscape, though stunning, is a field of extremes.

From that moment on, disaster after disaster.  Floods, and more floods. Total inundation. A broken bridge blocking their escape.  Dangling off the broken bridge is a police van carrying a couple of repellent nasties.  One (like one of the two policemen) succumbs to the flood.  The other, along with a cop with huge personal problems, is rescued -- not so much by Martin Napier, as by a truckie called Tony who happens along.

And so they go back to the farm, to retreat floor by floor as the flood engulfs them, until they are stranded on the roof.  So we are left with a group of virtual castaways. One aggressive cop, one murderous felon, a rather engaging truckie with a Croatian past, and a family of three trying to get their shattered existence in order.  There are crocodiles, a dam breaks, and there of a couple of looter/raiders. 

It sounds as if it was made for a movie, right?  Maybe (though the Australians have already made Dead Calm, a movie I recommend unreservedly) but there is a difference from the usual thriller genre.  A big difference.  Martin Napier's hero, Zardan, is facing similar problems in Napier's final comic strip, and Napier is constantly comparing himself with his comic book hero, and feeling utterly inadequate because of it.  A very nice touch is the interpolated description of Zardan's ordeal, and the awful story of his end.  Very Game of Thrones, believe me.

So this is an unusual look into the minds of people when taxed by extreme challenges.  With an unexpected ending.  And a different approach.

An interesting read, most definitely.

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