Genre: Science-fiction horror/thriller
Publication Date: 24 February 2021
Available As: Paperback and e-book
When former Marine Mike Cordero and his crack team of hardcore bad-asses are sent by their employer to investigate a distress call from onboard a research orbital station, they are expecting a fight. After all, fighting is what they are paid for. What they aren’t expecting – what no-one could ever have expected – are the prehistoric nightmares that wait for them in the darkness of space!
Author C. B. Ripley advertises Extinction Horizon as being Predator (McTiernan, 1987) meets Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993) in space and this statement is no exaggeration! As a big fan of films of this kind, and many of the others Ripley evokes and pays homage to throughout Extinction Horizon, I found this to be quite the entertaining and original concept.
The author’s clever use of references and call-backs to popular horror and science-fiction films is commendable and, for me, much appreciated. The Rapid Orbital Response (or, amusingly and fittingly, “R.O.R.”) team are clearly modelled both on Major Alan “Dutch” Schafer’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) team from Predator (both Schafer and McTiernan are also used as character names, which was a fun little inclusion) and the Colonial Marines from Aliens (Cameron, 1986). The ransacked space station that doubles as a research station and houses an ominous core that serves as a portal to another time and place reminded me very much of Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) and, perhaps unsurprisingly and intentionally, the depiction of the time/space portal itself is very reminiscent of Stargate (Emmerich, 1994). As a big fan of these films and genres (with the exception of Stargate…), I was constantly entertained by the way the author retooled these familiar aspects and the increasingly bloody and horrific situations the characters found themselves in.
Speaking of the characters, the book primarily follows Mike Cordero, the no-nonsense squad leader of the R.O.R. team. Having clearly and emphatically established a chain of command and conduct to the point where he doesn’t even need to communicate with his team with words half the time, Cordero is a battle-tested soldier who focuses on practical solutions to the problem at hand and is incredibly adaptable. Like many action heroes from the eighties and nineties (a time period clearly evoked by the author for the R.O.R. squad), Cordero is a man of few words and pragmatic thought processes; although he cares (and despairs) for his team mates, particularly his closest friend, Ortega, Cordero doesn’t allow grief or panic to overwhelm him and, instead, is able to use his wits as well as his heavy ordinance.
As the main character, Cordero receives the bulk of the attention and characterisation but not all of it; the rest of his team has their own distinct, if a bit cliché, characteristics, such as the unnerving sniper, Armstrong, and the brutish, hostile Richards. Much of the team’s rapport, characterisation, and backstory is told through frequent references to previous missions, skirmishes, and life-threatening situations they’ve been in. The dialogue in these instances reminds me very much of the exchanges between the rescue team in Predator and helps to establish that they’ve been through, and overcome, quite a bit in their time though they don’t really dwell on these experiences and they don’t always necessarily factor into solutions to their ever-mounting problems aboard the Buckland.
Of course, one of the main draws of the book is its insane inclusion of dinosaurs on a space station, a concept that sounds crazy but works really well thanks to the great job Ripley does building up towards their appearances. The first chapter reminded me very much of the under-rated Doom (Bartkowiak, 2005) in that we follow a terrified resident of the Buckland space station as they desperately try to send a distress call while some vague, vicious beast hunts them. When the team arrives on the Buckland, initially all they find are eviscerated bodies, claw marks, and blood and a real sense of ominous dread begins to build as they split into co-ordinated teams to achieve their objective.
When the dinosaurs do finally appear, it is thus well-earned and the author does a great job of describing their appearance, behaviour, and attack strategies in a way that is both familiar (especially to fans of Jurassic Park) but also frightening as they are portrayed as both mindless creatures acting on instinct and incredibly smart and adaptable hunters. Even better, the author went to great lengths to specify that the ‘raptors that appear in Extinction Horizon are the more scientifically accurate Utahraptors rather than the Velociraptors made famous by Jurassic Park. Additionally, Extinction Horizon’s Tyrannosaurs rex is a much more aggressive and capable beast since it’s not hampered by poor vision and, overall, the book uses the dinosaurs both sparingly and to great effect so that their presence is a real problem for the characters as they are easily overwhelmed or slaughtered by the creatures whenever they appear.
Thanks to the confused, hungry, and ferocious prehistoric creatures wandering, appearing, and stalking their way throughout the Buckland, Extinction Horizon features a great deal of gore and strong, bloody violence and language. And, as you might expect, it’s pretty amazing to experience, especially if you’re a fan of the genre and the types of films and stories the author is evoking in their writing. Thankfully, that I am a fan of these; when I first saw Extinction Horizon crop up in my Twitter feed, I was immediately intrigued and knew that I wanted to see what Ripley was doing with this concept and the book didn’t disappoint. It’s a brisk, thrilling read full of some brilliant gory visuals and a very imaginative premise that pays homage to clichés of the horror and science-fiction genre just well enough to be charming and enjoyable for fans of these genres but I think the concept alone is a good enough reason for any reader to give it a shot.
If you’re interested in checking out Extinction Horizon and learning more about C. B. Ripley, visit the links at the top of the page.