Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’m really hoping word of mouth will carry Ronan Cray’s, Red Sand to the summit of success it deserves to reach. Any tale that feels as though Lord of the Flies collided with The Ruins is what I’d call an absolute winner (I’m a huge fan of both William Golding and Scott Smith’s riveting, severely disturbing works), and the kind of fiction that deserves to breathe a long lasting life. In fact, this is the exact kind of story I’d clamor to see on a big screen. Plenty of action, a slew of dangerous antagonists and a wide array of colorful characters help in elevating this piece of work above and beyond your typical tale of terror.
The story sees a handful of shipwreck survivors brought upon shore by a group of mysterious natives. Or, are they natives? For that matter, perhaps a better question may be, just how native to this small expanse of land are they? There’s loads of mystery here, and immanent dangers on the island, the natives being but one single threat to these naïve but initially thankful castaways. Cray wastes little time in alerting readers that hell lingers on this stretch of sand, and the decision to hint at a biological hazard works in successfully reeling readers in very quickly. Cray staggers the puzzle pieces and creates a magnetic narrative that gradually builds massive conjecture. Ultimately however, the only question of true significance is: can anyone escape No Man’s Land with their life intact?
I like the character development at work here, because Ronan utilizes a fairly unorthodox tactic. He doesn’t invest an exaggerated length of time familiarizing each single character, but he stretches his introductory work well, distributing just enough detail to allow a good 10 personalities to function in memorable fashion. That’s no easy feat. He also manages to keep the reader constantly guessing: who’s the genuine villain here, and who in the hell is destined to emerge the hero or heroine? These are questions that loom until, quite literally, the final page of the tale. However, take solace in knowing that answers are disclosed consistently, just not quite liberally.
Don’t eye any mind-jarring twists. Cray doesn’t allow time for that, and I suppose some could point to this as a weakness, or fault, but Ronan really makes it work. The story simply moves too fast to struggle with a lack of profound U-turns, and in truth, there are enough emerging riddles and sub-conflicts to completely overlook the lack of a grandiose spin. The story doesn’t require it.
Red Sand is a technically refined novel, with a fresh enough concept to hypnotize readers. This isn’t a ghost, haunting or possession story, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with zombies, vampires of werewolves. Don’t wait for the brooding serial killer to sneak from the shadows. Cray does something bold in delivering a creative story with menace and intrigue lingering on every page, and it just so happens to be original, which only scores a few extra points from me. Whether you’re familiar with this title – or Ronan Cray for that matter – or not, Red Sand is a homerun, disturbing and bleak, grim and unsettling with a savage enough conclusion that would no doubt leave a smile stretched across the mug of the popular Stephen King, who’s been known to frequently slap readers with gnarly finales himself.
I just made something of a comparison to King… I think that alone says a lot about Cray.
Read this one now, you can pick up a copy over on Amazon, and at just $6.99 a paperback ($2.99 for the ebook), I can tell you honestly, that’s a bona fide steal!