Camp 417 is a prequel to the Outpost book series from Finnean Nilsen Projects. For the unfamiliar Finnean Nilsen Projects is a production company for books, games and other media run by two brothers, The Brothers Finn if you will, who are also authors of this episodic series.
Camp 417 takes the story back to the beginning of the “sondie” horror, back to the very start of the unleashing of the undead. Focussing primarily on Doctor Keith Manning, who narrates some of what happens in flashback, the story follows a team of supposedly elite U.S. troops as they are sent behind enemy lines into Austria towards what became the final days of World War II.
While their original mission directives may be vague it very quickly becomes clear they have stumbled upon something far more terrible, and far more dangerous than their superiors could possibly have imagined. As they near a remote village and the mysterious Camp 417 their loyalties and friendships are tested to the full in the face of an onslaught from a seemingly invulnerable foe.
Fans of the Outpost series will know exactly what to expect from this book but newcomers may take some time to become accustomed to the prose style. The first few pages and chapters are perhaps a little tough to get through as the short, stunted writing style can be problematic in drawing the reader in. Early descriptions and events are somewhat unsatisfactory and there is a real temptation to put the book down. This would, however, be a mistake.
The very thing that makes the story initially prohibitive becomes its strength in later chapters. As the action increases and the true nature of the horror being faced unfolds, this style of writing generates real tension and in some cases reluctant empathy for the characters, and the reader is clear from several events that anything could happen and that anyone could lose their life. There are some issues though. The characters are at best stereotypical and at worst just plain unbelievable. There are also some slightly confusing moments when it becomes difficult to follow some of the action and to counter this the authors repeat previous character descriptions which does appear to be almost an afterthought, as if someone else had the same notion in the editing.
That said Camp 417 is a book that repays the initial faith shown and while wonderfully fantastical in its subject matter works hard to retain some remote footing in historical fact. This book may not appeal to everyone but anyone with even a passing interest in the genre will surely enjoy what becomes to its credit an enjoyable, if slightly hollow, zombie horror story.