Review: Colony by Benjamin Cross with Interview with the Author

Harmsworth.

A remote, mist-shrouded island in the Russian Arctic.

Archaeology Professor Callum Ross makes the discovery of a lifetime: a prehistoric ice mummy preserved for thousands of years by the sub-zero temperatures. Only, they didn’t die of natural causes…

As Callum races to unravel the mystery of the mutilated corpse, others race to sabotage the expedition, and he and his team are left stranded on the island. And they are not alone. Someone, or something, relentless is stalking them.

As the arctic mist descends and the death toll rises, the team is thrust into a nightmare fight for survival, involving submarines, cyber warfare and Spetsnaz. But none of this can prepare them for the real terror that survives deep within the island’s heart: a secret so ancient it’s been overlooked by time itself.

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Review

Colony is a spectacular and original thriller, drawing the reader in before exponentially increasing the tension and eventually, the terror. With a bleak and compelling setting, joining Callum as he unravels the mystery of Harmsworth island felt all too real. It’s a credit to Cross that his writing enables what could in less skilled hands feel far-fetched. His descriptions of the mist were particularly evocative, and whilst Harmsworth is an intriguing place, I don’t think I’d like to spend much time there.

The main cast felt like real people (and I picked up some Russian vocab!). Callum’s motivation to return to his son was believable and not overplayed. Whilst I didn’t feel my heartstrings were overly tugged on, I was invested in Callum’s safe return to his family, and in the relationships he built with other characters.

The two interweaved plotlines felt very disparate at the beginning of the novel, but with a few twists they came together very satisfyingly. I went into the book knowing nothing about the threat at the heart of Harmsworth, and whilst there are a few hints in the first chapters, I think that makes for the most enjoyable experience of the story, so beware spoilers!

Whilst the ending at times dipped into science fiction, I found that this didn’t negatively impact my experience due to the groundwork that had been laid throughout the book. Loose ends are tied up, so there’s no cliffhanger warning for this story.

I rated Colony 4 stars, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a thriller with something a little different. Personally, I’m going to be sending my Dad a copy for Father’s Day, whilst keeping hold of the signed edition I received in exchange for this honest review. Thank you again to Ben for sending me a copy. Content warnings for Major: Blood, Body horror, Death, Gore, Murder, and Violence. Minor: Sexual content and Terminal illness. Ages 14 and up.

Interview with the Author Benjamin Cross

Benjamin Cross

After turning the final page, I was curious about Cross’s process of writing the book. From his website I could see that he was himself an archaeologist, which explained the detailed descriptions of his novel, and I had noted from the cover that this might not be the only book in the series. I reached out to Ben with a few questions, and he was kind enough to answer.

Q: Colony provides a great insight into the processes of Archeology. How did your real life experience as an archaeologist feed into your writing?

A: I guess the best example of how my experience has influenced the book is the main character, Callum Ross. Callum is a Scottish professor of archaeology, specialising in the archaeology of the polar and sub-polar regions. Working with Callum was great because I knew pretty much exactly how his mind would work when confronted with the sorts of archaeological contexts, concepts and finds that he encounters. Some of these would probably be pretty obscure to the non-archaeologist, such as the process of Environmental Impact Assessment that requires him to be on the island in the first place, so he needed to be able to talk about them with clarity and authority, and to react to them as an archaeologist would. Overall, my experience in archaeology has (hopefully) added a certain level of depth and authenticity to his character, as well as informing other key aspects of the story, not least the discovery of the ice mummy.


Q: Much of Colony revolves around the myth of Tansu Taibaa. Is this a real myth or your own invention?

I’d love to be able to say that Tansu Taibaa was grounded in real Nganasan mythology, but in truth it, Ngana’bta and the whole backstory is my invention. The style of the myth is (again hopefully) reminiscent of the oral traditions that would have been the typical way of narrating and passing on history and myth prior to the invention of the written word. It’s a fascinating topic in and of itself. The act of telling the story can often be as, if not more, important than the story itself, and the stories are often infused with complex messages about societal norms and moral teachings, despite ostensibly being about heroes and monsters. In fact, I have to say that writing the story of Tansu Taibaa was probably one of the most enjoyable parts of writing the book.


Q: Colony was a pleasure to read. Can we hope for more Callum Ross novels?

A: Yes. Since Colony was published, that’s probably the question I’m asked most, which is a great thing; it tells me that (at worst) people think there’s room for Callum to have more adventures and (at best) they would enjoy to read those adventures, and want me to get on with writing them! Either way, I had been toying with the idea of a return to Harmsworth for some time, and the reception that Colony has had so far has pretty much made up my mind to make it happen. Watch this space!

Some exciting news there! Are you intrigued by Colony? Which thriller should I pick up next month? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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