Devil’s Island, by C.M. Saunders, is a slow-burning psychological horror novel set in the UK. It is the story of Davon Rice, a soldier who has just returned from active military duty. Acclimating to civilian life again has proven extremely difficult. He spends most of his days in and out of the unemployment office, searching for the right job. With no qualifications to do anything but night security, and no car to do even that, he feels trapped and frustrated.
When he happens upon a strange email, an invitation to be the sole inhabitant and caretaker of a government facility on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, he thinks he has finally found what he has been looking for. After a short time there, though, he realizes he isn’t alone. There’s something else living on the island. Davon can feel it. It’s stalking him and aching to get inside.
Saunders writes a very believable character in Davon Rice. It is an intimate and sometimes scary picture of what life is like for soldiers returning home from war. Saunders paints the settings of the facility and surrounding island in vivid details, which made me feel like I was right there with Rice, experiencing everything right along with him. At every page, I felt Rice’s solidarity, loneliness, and paranoia; it reminded me of watching Sam Rockwell’s character maintain the space station in the movie Moon, minus Kevin Spacey’s AI, Gerty.
The majority of the story unfolds slowly, taking on a pace more reminiscent of literary fiction, building character slowly through monotonous routines, flashbacks, and internal conflict. I felt that this slow burn took too long to retain any external conflict, and I often lost interest in the story. Despite his flaws, I liked the character, and I understood what drove him to take the job on the island. Unfortunately, I spent pages and chapters wondering when something was going to happen. When it finally did, though, the story moved at a swift pace, and it sucked me right back in.
Devil’s Island has many unexpected elements, some executed better than others (the ending definitely caught me by surprise). If you’re looking for a short, psychologically-driven story, then go ahead and pick this one up; but if your reading aesthetic requires something a little more action-driven, this may not be a story for you.