Review: Under Ground

underground-978144726648801By S.L. Grey

Macmillan, out now

After a flu outbreak threatens to become an epidemic, a group head for The Sanctum, a protected underground structure where they’ve been promised that they can ride out the end of civilisation in comfort – but not every promise can be kept…

One of my favourite novels is Robert McCammon’s Swan Song, in which one of the early strands is set in just such a bolthole as The Sanctum. To an extent, therefore, S.L. Grey (or Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg)’s novel is in familiar territory, although theirs is a tale of a far more Earthly horror than McCammon’s apocalyptic good vs. evil. It won’t surprise the reader to find that The Sanctum isn’t really as advertised – corners haven’t been so much cut as excised completely from any version of the plans, the security measures aren’t exactly foolproof, and there’s not exactly an ideal mix of people there.

In common with Lotz’s recent thrillers The Three and Day Four, this story is told from multiple perspectives, mostly third person but with the occasional piece of first-person in there. (Don’t worry: the irritating child whose point of view we’re in at the start of the book doesn’t reappear – the child does, the POV doesn’t.) Not only do this very varied group have to deal with problems with the infrastructure (or lack thereof) of the Sanctum, but also a suspicious death… and it seems as if there’s a murderer locked in there with them.

The characters come from many different backgrounds and all are very well drawn; and each one is keeping secrets from the rest of the group, and even their own families. Many of them aren’t pleasant, but perhaps it’s no surprise that people who feel that they have a right to survive Armageddon because they’ve got a few bucks more than their neighbours are going to be selfish – but just how selfish may surprise you.

Verdict: If you’re claustrophobic, this book may not be for you but otherwise if you enjoy character-driven tales of terror, head Under Ground now! 9/10

Paul Simpson

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