Mastodon by Steve Stred - book review.

In June 1990, Sandra Barton gave birth to Tyler whilst she and her husband Neil were on a hiking trip. On that same day, Sandra disappeared.

Seventeen years have passed, and on the anniversary of Sandra's disappearance, Neil is flying home when his plane goes down over the same area. An area that is private land and owned by the military.

There will be no search party, and officials offer Tyler compensation and tell him to accept his father is dead.

Convinced that his father is still alive, Tyler decides to venture into the area around Ogre Peak to look for him. But, the region is closed off for a reason.

When Steve Stred mentioned that he had Advance Copies of his new book available for review, I jumped at the chance to read it.

From the beginning, I had the feeling that Mastodon was a very personal story for Steve. I remembered a review that he had written in which he mentioned hunting with his dad and grandpa and that one time, they had been stalked by a starving cougar. And yes, I'm pretty sure he meant the wildcat type of cougar and not a sexually predatory older woman.

Either way, that woodland knowledge, combined with the fear and adrenaline of being both hunter and hunted are all very prevalent in the story.

The woodlands and the surrounding area aren't themselves oppressive; Tyler being knowledgeable with hiking and spending time in the wilderness, the threat comes from elsewhere. It's the man-made elements from which the horror springs.

And by man-made elements. I mean more than just mysterious signals and giant spikes coming out of the ground - although they are present, as well. No, there is something much more going on, something that turns Mastodon into a military-run version of Doctor Moreau, only set in the woods rather than on an island.

The only thing I didn't like was there was a mention of Tyler being three months old when his mother disappeared, but later it is revealed she vanished on the day of his birth. I was expecting there to be a reason why the media had different information or why someone heavily pregnant went camping, but I didn't spot anything, and it left me with unanswered questions.

Mastodon is a compelling tale with personal touches that elevate it into something more than just a 'lost in the woods' story. Yes, monsters are lurking, but as with most things, it's the human ones that are the true villains.

Mastodon is available in hardback and paperback now and ebook format on January 28th.

You can find it here for amazon US

And here for amazon UK.