It is tough to express in words how much fun I had reading Berserker by William Meikle (@williemeikle). The story is highly original, the characters compelling, the writing fresh and loaded with great imagery. Action? Plenty of it, and an ending that I didn’t see coming.
Before going too much farther, a word about the premise. Don’t be fooled into thinking this story — which the author himself labelled as “Vikings vs. Yeti” in his Twitter feed — is some eBook version of a sub-B movie found on the SyFy Channel.
Yes, that is essentially what the story boils down to, but Berserker is so much more than some cheesy “man in a rubber suit” movie. The main characters, Tor and his childhood friend Orjan, have flesh on their bones and it takes the reader almost no time at all to become fully invested in what happens to them.
Tor and Orjan, who became a “Skald” — a sort of court jester/psychic — after a crippling childhood accident, are on their first “Viking,” or sailing journey, looking for loot. As part of being “Skald” Orjan descends into a state known as the “wyrd” in which future and past events are re-lived, and as the story opens Orjan senses their future holds one outcome: Doom.
Fighting through a dense ice and sleet storm, the three Viking longboats make landfall and then come to anchor at a recently-abandoned settlement at the head of a fjord. But the small group of huts has not been completely vacated as the Viking band discovers and surrounds a large beast with white fur and hands tipped with razor-sharp nails.
Being Vikings after all, they kill the creature, which turns out to be a female carrying three unborn children, and that sets into motion a battle to death between the Vikings and the band of Yeti, or Alma as they are known. Although the Alma are larger and stronger than the Vikings, the Norsemen won’t go to Valhalla without a fight and the battle scenes are bloody and violent affairs.
More is going on than a battle of survival, however, and Viking mythology comes into the story in a completely natural and organic fashion. I won’t give away any more, but Orjan’s special abilities as a Skald will be needed for Tor and the other Vikings to survive the onslaught.
Berserker had me up late several nights in a row, reading just one more chapter to find out what happened next. As an added bonus, Mr. Meikle has included two of his short stories at the end, and I found them to be just as much fun.
I highly recommend Berserker to anyone looking for a fast, fun and exciting horror story that is as well-written as it is original. I’ll be adding Mr. Meikle’s other stories about “beasties” to my to-read list.