Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Freddie Åhlin, for an honest review.
Genre: Adult/Psychological Thriller/Horror
Plot: Forty-five-year-old truck driver Tom Richards is on the verge of losing everything. To save his marriage, and find a way out of crippling debt, he takes on the dangerous job of trucking across Dalton Highway, a 414-mile (666 km) long isolated passage through the Alaskan wilderness. By his side is his beloved five-year-old German Shepherd, Presley. It doesn’t take long before Tom realizes something isn’t right out on the road. First, he discovers a bulletin board filled with missing person posters, and later, he meets an elderly man who warns him about the powers of darkness. But desperate for the money, he refuses to turn back. When a storm erupts, Tom loses control of the truck and crashes in the middle of nowhere. Presley escapes into the deep forest, and Tom is forced to follow, only to discover the place is haunted by something more sinister than he could ever imagine. In a tense struggle against the clock and the wild nature of Alaska, Tom is forced to find his dog and a way out, before whatever is out there finds them.
“The fiery tongue licked after them.
The lights on the road were now in front of them.
Tom’s body collapsed, and all sounds faded to darkness.
The world silenced.”
“You’re going to die, Trucker.”
Tom Richards is hard-pressed for money and about to lose everything he holds dear. His wife is fed up and ready to leave him, and their money woes aren’t the only reason for the strain on their marriage. But Tom hopes that his job across the Dalton Highway will bring back enough money to invest in their happiness…so long as he makes it back alive. 414 miles is nothing for a trucker, but this highway that borders the vast and dangerous wilderness of Alaska can be daunting for any traveler. While Tom and his German Shepherd Presley start their journey, they quickly discover the abundance of disappearances that surrounds this vast and haunting area. But when they crash in the woods, they realize something else might be out there besides your standard predator.
Something is coming for them…
…and it might not be what it seems.
“He slapped away the flies. They fell to the ground and made the piles of discarded bones shake with false hope.”
Dalton Highway was a quick read and a great debut novel by author Freddie Åhlin. It’s a chaotic tale of a man and his dog trying to escape the horrors and predators of the Alaskan wilderness. One where reality quickly begins to morph into a conflicting state of paranoia and horror, causing the reader to question fact from fiction even after the story fades to black.
What the F just happened?
This psychological thriller is perfectly categorized, in that my brain is positively reeling from the cluster of wild and disorienting events I found myself engulfed in. If there’s one thing I love in any type of mystery/thriller, it’s a completely unassuming and totally unreliable narrator. These mysterious characters are always presented in a way that feels so genuine, so authentic. And by the time things start to shift around them, the reader is drowned in the slight thought of “is this character crazy…or did we just step into the Twilight Zone?”.
Tom Richards is your typical driven and hardworking middle-aged man who only wants to provide for his family. Throughout the story we are given more detail and looks into his personality, home life and even a bit of his childhood. As pieces start to unfold about who he is and his experiences, the reader can easily find themselves gravitating towards him. In most instances, Tom seems to be totally naive and easily worked up about missing persons posters or his slight isolation within just an hour of driving. He comes across as a good guy, but one that is easily rattled and who has an overactive imagination. I quickly found myself deciding that Tom was a bit of a drama queen. That he was reading far too into every tiny instance and trying to make little details into epic signs of impending doom.
Well…color me shocked when I reached the end.
But EVEN with this ending, I am still wondering what the actual truth is! WHO IS TOM?! How much of this was real? Was it all real?
Did this REALLY happen?
Or is this another one of those ‘Lost‘ situations?
Because the reader never really finds out. Even after you read that last sentence and close the book, you are still caught between an even line of plausible reality and solid fiction. The line doesn’t even blur. It is cut right down the middle, and this book rests smack dab in the middle. And though I love not knowing the truth of what really happened, I still find myself wishing I had gotten more than just one flashback into Tom’s childhood and a bigger sense of what that entire situation entailed. Because I LOVED it. But of course, every time I find myself wishing for more information on this book, I find myself preferring to be left in the dark.
In the end, all I can really express is what a feverish and chaotic blend of reality and psychosis this story is. It has an unhinging sense of time that is practically nonexistent, and characters that may not even be real.
To be honest, this book might not even be real.
I really can’t be sure.
But what I do know?
Dalton Highway is a fever dream.