Published by Penguin Global
By now you have hopefully read Wolf Creek: Origin (review here) and been blown away by how Mick Taylor became the murderous psychotic he is. Nature or nurture? Or just born evil? Can these questions even be answered with regard to Mick Taylor?
In the second book in the Wolf Creek prequel series, Desolation Game (out July 16th in the US), writer/director Greg McLean and noted Australian horror author Brett McBean (The Last Motel, The Awakening) pick up where Origin left off, and now Mick has graduated to kidnapping and murdering “intruders” (i.e., tourists) to his beloved Outback.
At the same time, the reader is also “treated” to flashbacks of Mick’s tour of duty in Vietnam, where he learned to do more than simply kill the enemy… He learned to love it.
In February 1968, a small group of tourists are traveling overland from Perth to Broome, via Western Australia’s brutal outback, in a VW bus (here referred to as a Kombi). The Sand Surfer’s Overland Wilderness Tours, run by best mates Bruce and Duncan, has eight disparate folks aboard, ranging from Akira and his fiancée, Chiyo, from Japan, to Yanks Steve and his girlfriend, Cindy, to Aussies Sam and his son, Matt, and friends Amber and Jewel. They are all looking forward to an eight-day, seven-night back-to-nature tour of the Outback. Catch your own food, sleep under the stars, run into Mick Taylor. Well, obviously the tourists have no idea of the horror that is waiting and watching for them almost from the moment they leave civilization behind and hit the backroads. but when two tires blow out at the same time, they do know they are in trouble.
Flashback to August 1966, Vietnam, and the reader begins to learn more about how Mick became the monster we know him to be. A sadistic sergeant, a fellow grunt with a grudge against Mick, and the ruthless nature of the war itself all lend themselves to putting the icing on the rotten cake that Mick is. We gain knowledge of the “root bin,” “head on a stick,” and other gruesome, sadistic “games” that Mick employs – and enjoys – both during the war and later, when he returns to Australia.
Flipping back and forth between 1968 and the tourists and 1966-67 and Mick’s tour of Vietnam, the horrors just pile on and on. The “present day” story of the tourists reminded me a lot of the plot of Wolf Creek (the film) with the vehicle “breaking down” and Mick arriving to “fix it,” the local watering hole that Mick frequents and where the tourists stop for a bite before all hell breaks loose, the abandoned mine that is Mick’s lair, and the big shed on Mick’s property which is the scene of many horrors, just as another one was in the film.
There is blood and grue galore in Desolation Game: Wolf Creek Book 2 with Mick brutally dealing with whomever he sees as “the enemy” in Vietnam as well as the “intruders” who trespass into his beloved Outback in 1968. A pit of dead bodies, torture, bloody deaths, skinnings, decapitations, sadism, rape – all the delightful games one associates with mad Mick. This is an excellent companion to Wolf Creek: Origin, showing the increasing development of a serial killer, and should really be read AFTER one has read Origin as events in the first book play out in Desolation Game.
Rumor has it that there will be more Wolf Creek books charting the decades of Mick’s depravity until, I assume, the authors reach the time of the first Wolf Creek film. That should delight fans of both the film and the new books. As I said in my review of Origin (and it applies to Desolation Game, too): These are the best books about a serial killer I have ever read. McLean and McBean get it exactly right, to terrifying effect. Just get the books and read them!
But not if you’re faint of heart.
4 1/2 out of 5