Book review: Island 731 delivers non-stop chills

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A 2014 bio-thriller

In Jeremy Robinson’s thriller Island 731, an ecological expedition in the Pacific runs aground on an unknown island.  A crewmate flees and Hawkins, a hero who earlier survived a grizzly bear attack, sets out to find him.  Hawkins and his love interest, the risk-taking Joliet, plunge inland despite initial signs of danger.

Why their geeky but likable crewmate Kam would have run away makes no sense at first.  Hawkins and Joliet speculate that Kam went into hiding after killing another crewmate:

“That’s my best theory.”

Joliet sagged.  “I came up with the same thing.  Do you really think Kam would run?  If it was an accident—”

The search is complicated as Hawkins and Joliet quickly learn that the island is teeming with dangerous lifeforms that are blends of more than one species.  The discovery of an island with previously undiscovered creatures makes this thriller reminiscent of The Land That Time Forgot.  And like Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic, the threats to the protagonists aren’t only from the island’s beasts, but from frictions within the marooned crew.

An island full of chimeras is exciting, foreboding, and mysterious.  It creates a great, dark atmosphere.  That being said, some of the chimeras have so many progenitors that they are difficult to visualize.  For example, one chimera has a face with features from a bat, goat, tiger, and crocodile.  Tough to picture.

The search leads the main characters into more danger and closer to the truth of the island.  Without giving any spoilers, Robinson’s work shows a broad familiarity with biology, history, and conspiracy theories.  Island 731 delivers plausibly on these themes.  There is some background and technical information that must be conveyed for the story to make sense, but Robinson handles those passages economically without retarding the action.

The characters are engaging.  Larger-than-life villains and bald faced evil make for an ambitious book, but Robinson pulls it together.  Hawkins’s jovial sidekick Bray is fun, and the romance between Hawkins and Joliett is well done.

Parts of the book are gruesome:  one character is crucified hanging from his own entrails.  “Patients” are dissected alive.  If you didn’t like the bloody, gross-out scenes of the movie “Saw,” this may not be the right book for you.

Some thrillers have great beginnings and the action falls apart toward the end or doesn’t pay off.  That’s not the case with Island 731.  The action builds throughout and the stakes get higher toward the end.  Robinson has a good sense for plot, pace, tension, and momentum.  The characters are always on the move and run into one obstacle after another.

For readers who are drawn to thrillers because they enjoy non-stop thrills and chills, look no further.  If you’ve got a dark streak, you’ll want to bring this apocalyptic island adventure on your next cruise.

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Local Marines display 100 years of history

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Two Marine veterans are displaying their collection of historical military gear around schools in Henry, Spalding and other counties just south of the Atlanta area.  They will also come to your location if it’s not too far.  This seems like it would be a great opportunity for boy scout troops, ROTC programs, and history classes to take advantage of.

The two men assembled their collection from shops and flea markets.  I hope they accept donations–I’d rather give some of my old gear to them than leaving it on the curb!  The Henry Herald reports:

Veterans give military history lessons from personal collection

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Mar 4, 2016

McDONOUGH — Students marveled at the walkie-talkie — a stamped steel, two-way radio shaped like an 80s cellphone receiver, but twice as large.

The device stood atop a table of artifacts dating back 100 years, pieces of a personal collection owned by McDonough residents Lamar Scott and Buddy Simpson. It was part of their exhibit displayed this week in the Navy JROTC wing of Eagle’s Landing High School.

Scott, 68, and Simpson, 78, are veteran Marines who served during the Vietnam War-era and want that history to be told and memorialized.

Over the past decade, they have collected hundreds of pieces to display in visits to area schools, churches and senior centers. The exhibit covers military engagements from World War I to the Vietnam War.

“I’ve been collecting for about 11 years,” said Scott. “I started off with just a little bit of a collection. I went from a few shelves in the bedroom to a 6-by-12-foot trailer. And now we have an 8-by-20-foot trailer.”

Scott has managed to collect most of his items through flea market sprees in the North Georgia area, while Simpson has built his collection buying from shops across the Southeast.

“We do it to teach students about history,” he said. “If you forget your past, you have no hope for the future. We’re preserving history through wartime collection.”

He and Simpson have loyal friendships in Russ Vermillion and Terry McClure who volunteer their time helping show the historic pieces.

Both wartime veterans have a vested interest in the military histories. Vermillion served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968 to 1970, and McClure served in the Army from 1972 to 1974.

Vermillion keeps the group lively during exhibits with intermittent jokes, breaking lulls of seriousness with jest.

On Thursday, a cloud of chatter filled the Navy JROTC wing of Eagles Landing High, where the men and a few JROTC cadets spent seven hours setting up cabinets, table displays and mannequins.

About 50 mannequins clad in antique uniforms dwarfed the men as they answered questions from students passing through.

“These mannequins represent men and women that died for our freedoms,” said Scott. “The best representation is Jesus Christ that died for all of us. But if I can get four or five of these kids on the right road, I’ve done my job.”

Simpson said he regularly receives donations from people who might otherwise toss the historic items in the trash…