Backcountry by D. E. McDonald is a novelisation of a movie by the same name – I generally enjoy novelisations if I’ve loved the movie, as it’s a chance to see a few things in a bit more depth. In this case I haven’t seen the film, but I do know the author so I had this one on pre-order. And now I’m never going camping again, and I won’t be seeing the movie so I don’t get nightmares! Even if it is pretty! I’ll go see waterfalls somewhere else, thank you.
Alex has always loved camping, so after much begging (and probably nagging), he manages to convince his girlfriend to go on a camping trip to the same bit of wilderness that he camped in as a child. Jenn isn’t one for nature – seemingly unable to leave her mobile for even a moment, as it’s constantly buzzing with work-related issues. Where they’re going, there won’t be any reception, and although it takes her a while, she soon allows herself to enjoy the picturesque view they’re in… even it means drop toilets (or worse), campfire cooking (which turns out to be quite good) and a bit of romance with Alex.
It’s not all fun and games though. They’re not alone in the park, and Alex manages to injure himself. Then these two things – though quite serious – soon turn out to be the least of their worries.
The writing was – bias aside – engaging and emotive, and you got an easy sense of the characters early on, and you were able to identify with them easily. Set in Canada, you also get the sense that this could just as well have been set in Australia or Europe somewhere, meaning you put your own images in where appropriate, and feel like this could be a bit too close to home.
It’s also a bit terrifying, not just the brutal factor, but the sense of hopelessness of being in a situation you can’t do anything in. Living in a vast country quite close to some of the more remote parts, honestly – everyone talks of Australia of how the spiders and snakes will kill you (and dropbears, I suppose, sharks, rockfish… etc) but honestly, it’s the elements that will. It’s getting lost out in the endless miles of bush or desert with no hope of being found in time, or being able to protect yourself from the sun, much less find water. So this aspect of the novel is what hit me the hardest – it’s certainly a much more real element of danger than the wildlife is generally.
This book remains a novelisation so it is a bit basic in these regards, but it’s still quite good. The characters drive this narrative and that’s what I always read for. It’s quite beautiful as well, and certainly hard to put down when it all starts to go wrong. The way this ends, too, means it remains in your mind for a while to come.