ScienceThrillers.com review of Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson
Publication date: March 26, 2013
Category: science fiction thriller; science thriller; horror
Tech rating (out of 5):
Summary (from the publisher):
Mark Hawkins, former park ranger and expert tracker, is out of his element, working on board the Magellan, a research vessel studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But his work is interrupted when, surrounded by thirty miles of refuse, the ship and its high tech systems are plagued by a series of strange malfunctions and the crew is battered by a raging storm.
When the storm fades and the sun rises, the beaten crew awakens to find themselves anchored in the protective cove of a tropical island…and no one knows how they got there. Even worse, the ship has been sabotaged, two crewman are dead and a third is missing. Hawkins spots signs of the missing man on shore and leads a small team to bring him back. But they quickly discover evidence of a brutal history left behind by the Island’s former occupants: Unit 731, Japan’s ruthless World War II human experimentation program. Mass graves and military fortifications dot the island, along with a decades old laboratory housing the remains of hideous experiments.
As crew members start to disappear, Hawkins realizes that they are not alone. In fact, they were brought to this strange and horrible island. The crew is taken one-by-one and while Hawkins fights to save his friends, he learns the horrible truth: Island 731 was never decommissioned and the person taking his crewmates may not be a person at all—not anymore.
Author Jeremy Robinson’s signature style is on full display once again in Island 731, though this book is not his best (I liked SecondWorld better). Robinson consistently delivers decent characters, original–even zany–plot ideas with scientific or SciFi elements, some horror, and most of all, ACTION. Every time I read one of Jeremy Robinson’s books, I feel a bit like I’ve played a video game. Island 731 has even more of this sense than usual. Life-or-death peril coupled with nonstop derring-do open the story, and they continue relentlessly until the very end. Don’t expect to come up for air until the last page is turned.
The premise behind Island 731–tying in to the infamous WWII Japanese Unit 731 that conducted horrible experiments on human prisoners–is engaging but isn’t a driving force in the novel. Essentially, this story is a series of battle encounters between our warrior-protagonist and an escalating series of monsters, with a quest to save the “princess” and a final showdown with the big boss at the end (like a video game, as I said). Between what I can best describe as “levels” in the main character’s advancement, the reader is fed enough backstory and plot to justify the action (barely).
Hmm…now I’m thinking not only video game parallels, but summer blockbuster movies?
Because here’s the bottom line: Robinson writes action really, really well. He leaves you breathless, he forces you to start the next chapter against your will, he choreographs combat with flair and originality. If you want a book that stimulates the thrill centers of your brain but leaves the cerebral cortex in peace, you’ve found it. Island 731 is suitable for a long flight when you want to forget where you are (and you’ll finish it before you arrive at your destination), or save it to read poolside once you get there. Given the setting and subject matter, you might not want to read it on a tropical beach…
Unusual words: ampullae of lorenzini; Battle of Midway; great Pacific garbage patch; Oak Ridge Laboratory; pillbox; draco; chimera; Unit 731; Mansfield Amendment