By: Stephen Patrick and David Rike
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication date: September 2020
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau
The Holocaust Engine is the first novel in a trilogy by Stephen Patrick and David Rike. Set in the Florida Keys, this novel portrays the collapse of civilized society as a new disease begins to tear through the community.
A key aspect to this story is Bontrager’s disease, a mysterious illness that tears through the island. Very little is revealed about the disease itself, beyond its terrifying symptoms that play a huge role in the plot. Chief among the symptoms is an irrational rage that causes its victims to become extremely violent. They behave almost zombie-like. As the story progresses, a new strain of Bontrager’s emerges. The twist of the new strain adds tension to the plot as the audience scrambles to rethink everything they thought they knew about the disease.
The greatest strength of this novel is in its action sequences. Patrick and Rike craft hard-hitting battle scenes that will keep their audience filled with nail-biting suspicion. They are the heart of the entire story. The authors masterfully shift between a plethora of narrators, allowing readers to experience these gritty scenes from various points of view. The weakness of the story is with one of the main characters, Reagan, who has been preparing for the end of the world for many years. Once it’s revealed just how dangerous Bontrager’s and its victims are, he knows exactly what to do to keep himself alive. Nothing is ever a challenge for him. While many of the other characters are faced with tough decisions and obstacles, Reagan never faces anything he can’t immediately overcome. There isn’t much at stake when reading from his point of view, because it’s established very early on that nothing can kill him. His passages as narrator are often boring and it's hard to like him at times. In a dangerous survival situation, being likable certainly isn’t a requirement, however, the main character of a novel should be someone who the readers care about.
Likewise, Reagan does nothing to endear himself to the reader and is often very rude and disrespectful to other characters. For example, there’s a scene where Reagan and a group of other survivors are searching for leftover materials in a chemistry classroom and a female character brings up his behavior towards another woman they left behind at their base. He responds with this passage: “You guys think this is what it sounded like backstage at a Beatles concert the last couple of years? Bunch of dudes wanting to get the job done and get back to the hotel room, maybe smoke some hooch, but Yoko just keeps running her head and the guys are looking around at each other like, when is somebody gonna take that bongo out of her mitts and hit her upside the head with it?” (pg. 121) It’s meant to be taken as a funny comment, and he makes similar ones throughout the rest of the novel. Whenever a woman takes on a leadership role or is actively trying to help the group of survivors, he belittles them. Often, the characters he mocks are far more likeable to the audience than he is.
The Holocaust Engine is a dynamic and action-packed thriller that will engage the reader with its concept and action sequences. The story is timely, given our current state, and will have readers wondering about their futures. If you can get past the unlikable character of Reagan, then you'll be rewarded with a good post-apocalyptic pandemic thriller.
Quill says: If the reader can get past the sexism, The Holocaust Engine itself is very engaging and keeps its audience on the edge of their seats.
For more information on The Holocaust Engine: A Post-Apocalyptic Pandemic Thriller, please visit the publisher's website at: evolvedpub.com