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 he couldn’t have prepared himself for the dangers that move in the dark.
Christopher Golden makes perfect use of the unforgiving Siberian setting, quickly establishing the stakes before anything supernatural creeps in. In a climate where a cracked windshield can easily mean freezing to death, a palpable tension seeps from the pages, growing heavier with every mile. It’s with this sense of unease that we follow Teig and Prentiss on their adventure, the cold a silent but constant companion. Tucked in my blanket as I read, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on the piles of snow outside my window, especially as the arctic chill transformed into a predator prowling around their truck to get inside.
Dealing with subzero temperature 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 that seems to be the only resident left in the village. Even worse, though, are the shadows that are beginning to stalk the streets and a lone figure determined to stop them from leaving.
Even with supernatural entities stalking our characters, it’s the little things that 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. It’s impossible not to feel the vast wilderness creeping in, overwhelming me with a sense of helplessness. Living in a society where help is a call away, Golden rips away any sense of safety, plunging us into a world where everything is ready 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 propelling you forward on the Kolyma Highway.