Thriller: New Year Island, by Paul Draker

New Year Island
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when you abandon ten people, all survivors of disasters of one sort or another, on a tiny island populated only by seals and sea birds? The prize: five million dollars. No, this isn’t the plot of TV land’s latest reality show, but of Paul Draker’s blockbuster novel, New Year Island. There are hundreds of hidden cameras everywhere on New Year Island, and the mastermind, Julian, has cooked up some truly Machiavellian challenges for these highly competitive contestants.

Within the book’s 700+ pages, the author has plenty of room to develop his characters, which he does with style. He also makes the island setting so real that you feel like you’re there. Don’t let the length of New Year Island discourage you, because it careens along from one harrowing, unexpected situation to another. The cast arrives on the island at nightfall, and are instantly attacked by a monstrous elephant seal. They soon realize that their scanty luggage has been tampered with, leaving each with a critical disadvantage with which to cope. To “balance” the scales, Julian finds a way to provide each with one particular advantage, although none of them knows in advance how that edge might be put into play. Terrifyingly, the list of problems that they must contend with quickly grows to include food and water shortages, great white sharks, and, not surprisingly, each other. The dire situation brings out the worst in each of them, stimulating their psychological flaws, and in Lord of the Flies fashion, the contestants find themselves at each other’s throats. Then the first among them dies….

New Year Island is a seat -of -the- pants, turn- on- a -dime sort of horror tale, in which the true horrors are not supernatural but contained within the participants themselves. Barely contained. Don’t expect a happy ending, with all the survivors returning home to bask in their fame. Isn’t gonna happen.

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