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Sonja Ska Reviews, 5/9/2024

Road of Bones

By Christopher Golden

In an attempt to salvage a production career, Felix Teigland is determined to find the next big thing in reality TV - and he thinks he's found it. His journey takes him deep into the heart of the Siberian wilderness, where he plans to film his experience riding along the Kolyma Highway, otherwise known as The Road of Bones. But what starts as a project to resurrect a stalled career soon turns into a harrowing fight for survival against supernatural foes and a harsh landscape. Teig prepared himself for the cold but couldn't have prepared himself for the dangers that move in the dark.

Christopher Golden skillfully utilizes the unforgiving Siberian setting, swiftly establishing the high stakes before any supernatural elements come into play. In a climate where a cracked windshield can swiftly lead to freezing to death, a tangible tension oozes from the pages, growing weightier with every mile. It's with this palpable unease that we embark on Teig and Prentiss's adventure, the cold, a silent but relentless companion. As I read, bundled up in my blanket, I couldn't help but cast glances at the mounds of snow outside my window, particularly as the arctic chill transformed into a predator prowling around their truck, seeking a way in.

Dealing with subzero temperatures should be the worst of their worries, but when Teig and his crew arrive at Akhust, the first town on their journey, they quickly learn that there are far greater dangers lurking in the remote parts of our world. Something that becomes obvious when they're greeted by abandoned houses with footsteps leading into the woods and a near-catatonic girl who seems to be the only resident left in the village. Even worse, though, are the shadows beginning to stalk the streets and a lone figure determined to stop them from leaving.

Even with supernatural entities on their tail, the mundane things become the true terror of the story: the distance back to civilization and the genuine question of whether they have enough gas to make it there. In a society where help is just a call away, Golden strips away any sense of security, plunging us into a world where everything is poised to claim our lives.

Golden is a master of creating tense, fast-paced stories, and Road of Bones is no different. From short chapters to alternating points of view, every word is steeped in tension and furthers the mystery of what is happening. Although a subplot sometimes halts an otherwise wild and fast-paced ride, there are enough perfectly timed, gruesome deaths to keep pushing you forward on the Kolyma Highway.

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