Written by: Drake Morgan
Walter Greatshell’s Terminal Island is a bizarre trip through madness, reality, hallucination, and the uncertain space between those two things. As a young boy, Henry is yanked away from his life on Catalina Island off the coast of California. He and his mother become transients and never put down any roots. Years later, his mother mysteriously returns to the island with no explanation to her son. All grown up, Henry also returns to the island to sort out the confusion of his past. What ensues is far from a comforting family reunion.
This is an intriguing novel that keeps you guessing, but not lost in chaos. Read carefully because the narrative jumps back and forth in time. Henry’s past and present are carefully woven together and help create a growing sense of unbalanced distress as the novel progresses. Dark, evil dreams of death and monsters hint at Lovecraft in a few places.Through the first two-thirds of the book, Greatshell skillfully walks the tightrope of reality and unreality quite well. We are never quite sure precisely what Henry is remembering, dreaming, sensing, feeling, or simply imagining. The fear mounts throughout the novel from this ever-growing sense of unbalanced reality. Like Henry, we do not feel as if we are standing on solid ground and that feeling moves from hesitant uncertainty to fear very quickly.
There are two major weakness of this novel however. First are the occult rituals. They just felt cheap. When in doubt, let’s throw in some mumbling rituals. Rather than allow this grey shadow world between real and unreal to simply exist, Greatshell fell back on the mundane. The ending was also weak. It just kept going and going and never hit that intense peak of fear I was expecting. It was an entertaining if not entirely compelling read.
Grab your copy of Terminal Island right here.