A long while back I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy of Island 731, which is written by Jeremy Robinson, as a suggestion from the creator of a comic book I had reviewed by the same title. I was immediately drawn to the premise of the comic and even commented in my review that it reminded me of the TV series LOST, which I was addicted to watching during its broadcasting and never missed an episode for all six seasons. However, I found out that the comic book was no longer going to be produced and it was suggested by one of the creators that I read the novel instead. This proved to be one of the most excellent book recommendations I have gotten since I began this website.
This was a novel that I was hooked on from early on. The book practically starts with a bold taste of action and then builds up to something more and the cycle keeps repeating throughout the story, getting more and more intense the deeper in you get. And you get into it pretty deep. This is one of those stories that you totally immerse yourself in and, before you know it, it’s after three o’clock in the morning and you feel like you’re just getting started. Every chapter has something fascinatingly creepy, gruesome, gory, or just downright terrifying.
There are many layers to this story as well. There are a number of characters that you get emotionally invested in, some you even sort of despise if not flat-out loathe or hate. And I have to be honest, those particular characters are written exceptionally well. The main character (in my opinion) is a man named Hawkins and he is no one to mess around with. He’s a tough guy and yet still kind of a romantic deep down inside. There’s a plethora of characters, each with their own distinct personalities and issues, making them very real, human, and easy to relate to. That is something that is essential if the author wants to get the reader to really dive full-on into the story. And I did, without hesitation.
Additionally, I would definitely call this a horror/psychological thriller. As I said, there are many characters and sides to each one’s personality. But there are many philosophical, psychological, and even a few theological layers to this plot as well. I found myself horrified at times, disgusted at others, and yet sympathetic, even empathetic, at other points in the story. I found myself asking “What would I do in that situation?” or “How would I handle that information?”. The answers didn’t come as easily as one might think given the depth and gravity of the story as a whole and the people in it.
Another thing that I found exceptionally chilling is that this story isn’t one that is actually very farfetched at all. In fact, there are things similar to numerous actions and concepts in this story that are not just real possibilities but have actually been documented in history. It’s amazing what sound and stable funding, and determined, motivated people can accomplish even in the most uninhabitable type places.
This novel had me addicted to its content in the same way I was with the LOST series when it was airing. The intrigue, the mystery, the uneasiness that something bad is just around the corner, the humanized characters that really come to life, the horrific behaviors and circumstances that are presented, and the action and suspense, all come together to create a novel that is truly one of the best fiction books I have read in over a year, maybe even two or more years. I really am a fan of this novel and I do hope that you will check it out.
Below you can find the links to purchase the novel in a number of ways. Take my word for it, you won’t regret it.
But, before you get all click-happy and jump to that information, I am going to give you a little rundown of the plot. Only a small one though. I can’t very well give you a review and not talk about the actual storyline of the novel. But I don’t want to give too much away.
Here is what is in the summary on the back of the book cover:
“Mark Hawkins, a former park ranger and expert tracker, is on board a research vessel in the Pacific. But his work is interrupted when the ship is plagued by a series of strange malfunctions and the crew is battered by a raging storm.
The next morning, the beaten crew awakens to find themselves anchored in the protective cove of a tropical island—and no one knows how they got there. The ship has been sabotaged, two crewmen are dead, and a third is missing. Hawkins spots signs of the missing man onshore and leads a small team to bring them back. But they soon discover the evidence of a brutal history left behind by the island’s former occupants: Unit 731, Japan’s ruthless World War II human experimentation program. As more colleagues start to disappear, Hawkins begins to realize the horrible truth: that Island 731 was never decommissioned and the person preying on his crewmates might not be a person at all—not anymore…”
Now, the first thing to know is Unit 731 was very real. It was, in fact, a Japanese unit during World War II that was based out of Pingfang, a district of Harbin, which was the largest city in a Japanese-controlled area at the time, in what was formerly called Manchuria, now simply generally referred to by its location, Northeast China. This was a group similar in purpose to the Nazi doctors and their inhumane programs. Their “work” involved lethal human experiments of all kinds, biochemical and biological weaponry and the effects on humans of such weapons, and experiments that challenged the boundaries of human imagination and destroyed the general innate sense of humanity that we assume all people possess.
If you are aware of the atrocities committed by the Nazi doctors in WWII prison camps such as Auschwitz and Dachau, then you can get a fairly clear idea of what Unit 731 was doing during the same time period. The experiments performed by Unit 731 were very similar. If you are not familiar with the many vicious and savage acts of barbarism, those atrocities, in short, included acts such as cutting live prisoners open with no anesthetic with no valid medical reason or treatment and applying biochemical weaponry, such as mustard gas, directly into the open tissue of the wound to see how it affected the poor prisoner and to try to develop some sort of antidote or vaccine for the Axis military on the battlefield. And that would be considered the lighter end of the horrors that were perpetrated upon these poor abused souls. There were experiments that involved live human dissection (vivisection) with no anesthetic, various chemical and biological poisonings and infections within the prison and in the surrounding civilian populations, and experimental surgeries that were performed seemingly out of pure hate, horror, and morbid curiosity. That is the short version. The experiments were so horrific and so numerous that it would take a whole different article, perhaps even a series, to explore such violations of humanity, which I may end up covering at some point at a later date.
In the late 1930s through the early 1940s Unit 731 conducted many of the same types of experiments, adding some of their own along the way. They used kidnapped victims and others from the surrounding populations including both men and women, and even children as their test subjects. And these experiments covered the entire arc of scientific horror. Unit 731 was shut down after the war and their facilities were demolished in about 1945.
Now, take that knowledge and apply it to the blurb summary of this novel I provided earlier.
Imagine that you are on a research vessel. You are trying to determine the effects imposed on the ocean and marine life within its depths by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a many miles long and wide accumulation of trash and debris that has naturally gathered by ocean currents and huddled together in an area that is between the Western Coast of North America and Japan. (Yes, it is a real thing and it is a very real threat to our ocean waters and the creatures that make those waters their home.) A perhaps somewhat disgusting and at times probably depressing, and maybe even demoralizing, job, but typically no more dangerous than a job on any other marine research vessel.
Then, all these little things start to happen to the ship and the crew, things that compromise the integrity of the ship and the confidence and ability of the crew. Then a strong storm comes and whips the little vessel about like a ragdoll. You lose consciousness. When you wake, the ship is damaged and anchored off the coast of a tropical island, crewmates are missing and some are even dead. Two things run through your mind: What the hell happened and where are my friends? Next thought, how do I get everyone together and get the hell out of here? Then the thoughts come in waves like a tsunami. Where are we? What’s going on? Where is help? Is there help? Whom can I trust? Are there people on this island? Is there a radio or phone to call for help? What the hell do we do now?
The novel Island 731 answers all those questions. But, as with any good horror-suspense-thriller, answers lead to more questions. As we get deeper into the story, we go deeper into the tropical jungle of the island. And with that depth comes tragedy, sacrifice, emotional rollercoasters, horror, fear, and the realization that science can further corrupt the minds of those already infected with nefarious power and control.
The journey into depravity starts on page one. It grips you in every way possible and takes you through the nightmare coupling of the jungle and science gone awry. Terror awaits. Time is short. It’s up to Hawkins to save his friends, get off the island, and away from its coast in one piece and, most importantly, alive.
Here are links to purchase Island 731:
You can find further information and reviews of this novel at the link below on Goodreads.com: