Remember Stanley Straub, the author of The Segmented Tail? Well recently he got back in contact with me regarding his latest book, The Trail in the Woods. Needless to say, I was more than happy to read and review it!
We start by meeting our two main characters, Bob and Janet. Both friends, both hikers. When Bob starts to tell Janet about the scary trail in front of them, Janet isn’t too sure what to believe.
“The Devils Tail’…I think that path is beyond scary. Scary would be a joy compared to what’s supposedly on the trail,” Bob said nervously.”
There’s something different about this trail though, those that venture down it…never return. An eerie fog and a humming noise emanates from the forest. This is not a happy hiking trail.
For Janet, this sounds like the greatest adventure. For Bob, he just goes along for the ride meanwhile hoping that the tales aren’t true. After much persuasion from Janet, Janet and Bob venture down the trial several times, each time a little further than the last. Each time the same eerie fog and humming noise appears and they escape.
But with each visit, something is different. There seems to be a man. Is it a ghost? Is it an alien?
Bob and Janet decide the best course of action is some history lessons. They learn of Tom, a hiker who ventured up the trail with his friend Jim and dog Sparkles. Tom was the only one to return and has ever since been kept in an insane mental asylum. After multiple visits, pieces start sticking together for Bob and they decide to get Tom out and take him up the trail.
What they eventually find is something very unexpected…
…they find a utopia. A place where the weather is controlled, where food appears and people do the jobs they love. With beautiful parks alongside, this seems like a paradise. But not long after they find that not all is as it seems. For there are creatures here not like any other, they breathe air and look like humans except for one minor detail…they have gills.
This utopia is more like a prison, A Valley of the Damned. Run by a ruler, the Tribulator…or as he prefers to be known…GOD.
This is where the tale becomes a bit more tricky for our characters and meeting new friends along the way…will they ever manage to escape? What is the Tribulators goal?
All becomes clear but I won’t spill too many details because let me tell you, there’s action here you definitely did not see coming.
But I will say this. The last chapter, in particular, the last couple of pages where the letter from the Tribulator to the President can be read. Pay close attention. Read it carefully and read it again. I find this letter hits home in the sense of us keeping our planet alive.
Think of the plastics in the ocean. Think of the greenhouse gases. Think of climate change and it’s effects. Think of us, the plants, the animals, the generations to come…what sort of planet will they be in? How can we help the world?
“…Earth is slowly becoming uninhabitable too and will someday become too unfit to live on as well…Earth should have many years, perhaps a thousand or more before it deteriorates to that point. I suggest that in the meantime you and all Earth’s people try to stop things from getting worse. You can do it by stopping the erosion of the environment and by not having any more wars…However, it’s really up to all of the people as to how long you can continue living on Earth. With leadership and the people of the world’s help, Earth’s inevitable fate can be delayed.”
Now I’m not saying that’s the intended message, but that’s how I have interpreted it and you as fellow readers and bookworms will have your own interpretations, some similar to mine and some very different. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments section.
If you are to take anything from this book or indeed this review then let it be this, we all have ideas of the perfect world…but what happens when you’re trapped there. Would you still want to be there? We all have the power to change the world, lets start now.
This book is one that is a slow starter but builds up in nature to what is essentially an anti-climactic end considering the action taking place but it’s a perfect ending to a very well written book that draws you in and keeps you there.
Be afraid, be very afraid, of The Trail in the Woods.
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