The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Blurb On The Back:

They sought the truth.

They found a nightmare.

A TV crew arrives at the Grand Canyon led by Nolan Moore, amateur archaeologist and host of The Anomaly Files.  Following the trail of a turn of the century explorer, the team seek proof of a hidden cave within the canyon, filled with ancient treasures.

At first, it seems that, once again, the crew will be returning to LA empty-handed.  But then their luck turns.  They find a cave – and artefacts beyond their wildest imaginations.  But quickly the team’s elation descends into a nightmare as they become trapped within the cavern’s dark passages with little possibility of escape.

Then events take an even more terrifying turn.

For not all secrets are meant to be found …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Nolan Moore is a former Hollywood scriptwriter turned YouTube programme maker whose show, ‘The Anomaly Files’ looks into unsolved archaeological mysteries and challenges conventional scientific wisdom. The show’s got a strong cult following but when the Palinhem Foundation offers to fund one of their investigations and dangles the possibility of a cable TV contract for them, Moore and his producer, Ken sees a chance to reach the (slightly) bigger leagues and more money.

Nolan plans to use the investigation to follow up on a report made in 1909 by an explorer called G E Kincaid who claimed to have discovered a cavern in the Grand Canyon that contained mysterious wonders. Kincaid claims to have received funding from the Smithsonian but the Smithsonian has always disavowed any such thing and says it has never heard of Kincaid and no one else has ever been able to find it.  Using Kincaid’s papers and other evidence, Moore wants to see if this cavern – Kincaid’s Cavern – really exists and what treasures it may contain.

Accompanied by Ken, assistant producer Molly, cameraman Pierre, Feather (who is monitoring the expedition for the Foundation) and Gemma (a journalist writing a piece on Moore), the team travels to the Grand Canyon where they meet up with Dylan (a South African who’s in charge of the boat and logistics) who will take them down the river.

But when they find a cave that might be Kincaid’s Cavern, they get more than they bargained for as the treasures Kincaid described are weirder and deadlier than anything they could have imagined …

THE X FILES meets THE DESCENT in this entertaining horror thriller by Michael Rutger (aka award winning speculative writer Michael Marshall Smith), and while I was left with questions about the plot, the story is riddled with a wry, dry humour and throws a knowing wink at the conspiracy subculture that dominates certain aspects of the internet, which kept me engaged from beginning to end.

The main reason to read this book is because of the relationship between Nolan and Ken and especially the banter that exists between the two.  It’s the humour and affection here that makes you care about both characters and what happens to them (although this extends to Pierre and Molly – who has some very well executed scenes with Nolan – as well).  Rutger gives Nolan a wry narrative voice that’s as aware of his own b-s as the b-s of others and at the same time highlights his genuine interest in anthropology and archaeology and his desire to challenge conventional wisdom, which his exchanges with Gemma (a slightly stereotypical millennial journalist) highlight.

There is a predictability to the plot, but I enjoyed the way Rutger beefs it out with mythology, archaeological theory and the story of Kincaid’s mission and the big reveals and sense of jeopardy as the team get trapped and start to run low on food and water are neatly handled.

This isn’t the book for you if you have a low tolerance for conspiracy theory and secret puppet masters who can control everything, although I have to say that I enjoyed it and could take it all with a pinch of salt.  There are a number of questions that I had after reading the book (specifically what motivated Kincaid to go public given his experiences and what he hoped to gain) but I liked the way Rutger draws in religion and science and things beyond our knowledge and understanding and the creatures are genuinely horrifying (and include a nice nod to ALIEN).

All in all, this is an enjoyable schlock horror read that’s packed with hokum fun and I will definitely be checking out Rutger/Smith’s other work on the back of it.

THE ANOMALY was released in the United Kingdom on 23rdAugust 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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