Red River Seven by A J Ryan

October 31, 2023

A man awakes on a boat at sea with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. He’s not alone – there are six others. None of them can remember their names, but all bear the scars of recent surgery.

When a message appears on the onboard computer – Proceeding to Point A – the group agrees to work together to survive whatever is coming.

But as the boat moves through the mist-shrouded waters, divisions begin to form, and the group is plagued by questions. Who is directing them, why have they lost their memories, and what are the screams they can hear beyond the mist?

Regular readers of The Eloquent Page know I’m drawn to apocalyptic fiction like a moth to a flame. When it comes to the fall of humanity, I just can’t get enough. I’m not entirely sure what that says about me but we dont have time to unpick that right now. We’re here to discuss Red River Seven by A J Ryan. 

That first paragraph is about as close to a spoiler as I can get when it comes to talking about this book. Something, somewhere has gone horribly wrong. The details of said horribleness are not immediately clear. A small group of people have been brought together to uncover the truth. The problem is our group starts off with more questions than answers. They have no idea who they are, no idea why they’ve been chosen and no clue about what lies in store. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t even know how to begin discussing the characters. The opportunity to blurt out a spoiler raises its head once again. All I’ll say is that each member of the group has a purpose, a reason for being there.  

Wow, it turns out that writing a review of a novel where almost every action and reaction the characters take has the potential to be a huge plot spoiler is trickier than I expected. I dont want to give away anything when it comes to the story either. Re-read the book blurb at the top of the page. It’s all rather vague, isn’t it? I think that’s kind of the point. As a reader, we’re going in cold. Reading Red River Seven is all about the discovery. Having those revelatory moments along with the characters as they have them.

While reading Red River Seven you’re going to pick up on homages to the best cinematic examples of the horror genre. I’ve seen Resident Evil and Apocalypse Now mentioned elsewhere while discussing the novel, but I’d also add The Thing* into the mix. There is a subtle undercurrent of paranoia that infuses each character. As things go from bad to worse, trust is in short supply. Ryan even manages to make the setting feel stifling, almost claustrophobic.  

I suspect the novel’s ending has the potential to be divisive amongst some readers. Again, I’ll not go into any detail in an effort to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say you’ll either love it or hate it. There’s really no middle ground here. Personally, I loved it but then I’m a sucker for that sort of thing**.   

The only thing I’m not sure about, and I know I’ll probably get grief for this, is the book’s title. Every time I read it I kept thinking about westerns***. I am so sorry A J Ryan. I don’t know why my brain works the way it does.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. There is all manner of bloody nastiness interspersed with a good old chunk of mystery. Once the pace of events picks up it never lets up. I’ve not read any of Anthony Ryan’s fantasy novels but his first foray into horror is a blast so it looks like I’m going to have to remedy that oversight sharpish.

Red River Seven is published by Orbit and is available now. 

My musical recommendation to accompany this novel is the dark and broody soundtrack to 28 Weeks Later by John Murphy. The music has an increasingly downbeat vibe that I think dovetails nicely with the book’s narrative. The covers of the book and the album are also the same colour but I think that might just be a coincidence and probably not as relevant as I thought it might be.  

*For clarity’s sake – I’m talking about tone here. There isn’t any snow in Red River Seven. 

**Yes I know, I’ve not provided any detail about what “that sort of thing” is. I can’t. It would be yet another huge spoiler. 

*** It’s not a western…I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler. 


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