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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
Survival Island by Matt Drabble is the kind of book that intoxicates the reader with thrills, where the setting takes on a character of its own. Clayton, a town with secrets and a beauty that is unique. There is a clear dichotomy, faintly visible, between those who really hold power among the locals and those who don’t. A respectable group, a religious order known as The Niners, has a lot of power in the community and this has been so for many years. And while those from the mainland have lived peacefully with the Islanders, things change when the local timber mill goes out of business. Mainland developers see an opportunity to move into the Island and exploit its beauty. But there is more to this Island than that because the Niners are sitting on land far more precious than anything. Will they give it up or put a fight for it?
Matt Drabble constructs the reality that is common in developing countries where the sudden discovery of natural resources can spark unimaginable conflict and set people against each other. The conflict is strong and readers will want to see how it affects the characters. My favorite characters were Dale Clayton, who owns the birthright to Clayton, and Ashley Quinn, who left the Island twenty years ago after her divorce, now returning because of her job. The tension builds up at great speed, escalating to a crisis with staggering proportions. Drabble has the gift for narrative and it is interesting how he creates a powerful relationship between his characters and the vivid setting. The tensions flare and explode, secrets unfolding, and readers feel the shock and the electrifying currents that move the plot. The writing in Survival Island is cinematic with compelling visual images and nonstop intrigue. A book so hard to put down — it shows brilliantly what it takes to unleash the beast in humanity.