Saturday, December 20, 2014

Time Travel Loopiness: Nazi Cruise Liner

Nazi cruise-ship time travel. Need I say more?

Perhaps not, but I will. The Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro, translated from the original Spanish by Andrés Alfaro, is less a time-travel science fiction novel with elements of horror than it is a horror novel that uses a time travel loop as a gimmick to allow an ultimate horror to live again.

The concept is breath-taking: In 1939, on the eve of the declaration of war for WWII, a luxury cruise ship is found drifting in the North Atlantic. Empty of its swastika-bedecked passengers, it is nevertheless not completely abandoned. One last passenger, an infant, is found on board by the salvage crew who explore her.

Switch to present-day, as a crew of scientists is being gathered to take the refurbished ship back out to sea, to a location that they hope will reproduce the original conditions under which the ship was lost in 1939. 

The purpose of this new cruise may be scientific, but the ship (or something aboard it) has an agenda of its own. It wants to return that last passenger to the origin-point. In aid of this time loop, it will resurrect its former Nazi passengers, infecting the minds of the current-day crew.

The delivery is suffocating, as in: you hold your breath from chapter to chapter. Loureiro deftly foreshadows the horror to come. Suspense and horror climb together as you read. And if you can't quite care about the main characters, who are a little flat and crudely-drawn, you can care about finding out just what the devil is going on.

Some of the plot points are telegraphed and easy to foresee. For example, the current-day identity of the "last passenger" is easy to spot in the first pages of the current-day narration. It doesn't matter, because the story is powerful (and horrifying) enough to carry you past the sense that you know what is going on.

Unlike other reviewers, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped up the story. Closure is important in a horror novelunless the author plans a sequel!

And there is a truly terrifying thought. The Return of the Nazi Cruise Liner. In 3D, perhaps...