Day Four, by Sarah Lotz
Little, Brown (2015), Hardcover, 352 pages
I’ve only been on a cruise once in my life. It was enjoyable, but I can’t say it was one of my more memorable travel experiences. There’s just something about the canned entertainment nature of a cruise, the endless exhortations to have fun, the frenetic (and somehow false, you always feel they are going be laughing at you afterwards in the crew bar) bonhomie of the staff, that I find faintly disturbing and never sure whether I should enjoy it or not. These feelings are likely to be amplified after reading this chiller from Sarah Lotz. Basically she takes all the fears that anyone going on a cruise is likely to have (bad weather, sickness, mechanical faults, psychotic passengers, really bad food) and throws them all together into a grand confection of horror. The story is outwardly simple enough. A third-rate fun cruise on an ageing liner filled with some really unpleasant people goes awry on the fourth day when the ship loses power completely. As the hours tick over and the food goes bad, the toilets stop working and the crew gradually desert their stations, the ship descends into chaos. As if that is not bad enough, a girl is murdered, there are reports of strange apparitions prowling the lower deck and a popular psychic takes it upon herself to form her own cult of survivalists. To be honest, the idea of a marooned cruise ship facilitating the descent of supposedly civilized humanity to its beastly roots is not exactly new ( I had moments of amusement amid the chills when the novel unconsciously echoed a recent episode of the Simpsons dealing with a very similar situation). Where this novel stands out is its conclusion, which to say the least is ambiguous. In fact, as far as I could see, the author leaves it very much up to the reader to decide what really happened. Its quite possible, I believe, that different readers may find different answers to the mystery. After some thought I think I worked out what happened to my own satisfaction. In a way it’s good not to have a neatly wrapped solution presented to you on a platter, and in fact there are hints that this may not be the end of the story. The book functions as a kind of sequel to Lotz’s earlier work, The Three, the story of which is referenced a few times here, and I’m pretty sure that the events of Day Four will in their turn figure in Lotz’s next work, so more revelations are possible. All in all, a satisfyingly chilling read, worth the effort of finding.