The Drift by C.J. Tudor: A Gripping Thriller Trapped in the Snow

The Drift by C.J. Tudor HORROR BOOK REVIEW

I admire CJ Tudor’s ability to maintain the reader’s investment in the story by raising questions at the end of every chapter. Despite its slow start, The Drift snowballs into a propulsive thriller.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

A Horror Book Review by Ryan Tan

In The Drift by C.J. Tudor, three protagonists are trapped in three different locked rooms. Hannah is trapped in a coach which has gotten into an accident and fallen onto its side, its exits blocked by heavy snow. Meg is trapped in a cable car which has come to an abrupt stop about a quarter of a mile from the cable car station. And Carter is trapped in a resort-like facility called the Retreat, which is surrounded by half-human, half-zombie creatures called Whistlers. They are so-called because of the whistling noise they make while breathing, a symptom of a virus that has infected the entire world. Not Covid, the author clarifies — The Drift was written prior to the pandemic, even though it was published in 2023. The novel rotates between the points-of-view of Hannah, Meg, and Carter, in that order.

Out of all the reveals, I think the most effective is Dexter’s tongue. Dexter is a terrier who used to belong to a former inhabitant of the Retreat, and who now sees Carter as its owner, staying by his side and regularly licking him with its “smelly tongue”. Whenever Dexter makes an appearance, Carter reminds us of both its affection towards him and the stench of its tongue. By doing this, he reinforces our favourable perception of Dexter’s tongue, which is not only inextricable from the dog’s love for Carter, but also suggestive of Carter’s reciprocal love, in that he embraces Dexter in spite of its stench. For these reasons, we associate Dexter’s tongue with love, companionship, and humanity. Then, when we learn that the source of Dexter’s stench is the infected bodies it has been consuming, its tongue is literally corrupted — poisoned with ominous implications that were once positive attributes. This perversion reminds me of “The Little People”, a short story by Chris Priestley. The eponymous Little People are fairy-like beings who fly away when the protagonist approaches, making her believe that they are shy, delicate creatures. Only at the end of the story does she come close enough to the Little People to see them for who they are: a swarm of demons hungry for her flesh. In both The Drift and “The Little People”, what we assume is a good thing is something much worse in disguise.

The Drift throws us in at the deep end, introducing more than ten characters in the first three chapters. We are immediately given an idea of the scale and complexity of the story, which I think is both an incentive and a disincentive to keep reading. On one hand, the huge cast of characters makes me want to discover each of their backstories; each character represents a puzzle to be solved. On the other hand, the overwhelming amount of new information makes me worried that I will forget important details. This, in turn, makes me dread the thought of flipping through the book in a tedious and time-consuming search for key information. While the number of characters dwindles as the novel progresses, keeping track of all of them is challenging, especially in the beginning. I would have appreciated a dramatis personae at the start of the book. Perhaps the author could also have named each character in a way that reminds us of their most important attribute. For example, a character with red hair could be called Rose. It would have been even more interesting if the three protagonists came up with mnemonic devices for the names of the people around them. After all, they are introduced to these strangers at the same time as us. Not only would nicknames have made the story more accessible, they would have been fully consistent with the plot.

Still, I admire CJ Tudor’s ability to maintain the reader’s investment in the story by raising questions at the end of every chapter. Despite its slow start, The Drift snowballs into a propulsive thriller.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

A crashed coach full of students.
A stuck cable car full of strangers.
An isolated chalet full of friends.
A killer snowstorm outside.
Inside one group, a killer.
But which one?
And why is no rescue coming?
How did they become trapped?
And what were they all trying to escape?

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1 Response

  1. Iseult Murphy says:

    Great review. I love your thoughts on Dexter’s tongue.

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