I had a great time reading Bill Conrad’s latest, Pushed to the Edge of Survival. It’s a difficult book to qualify, I think the closest I’m able to get is that it’s somewhere between a mystery novel, a romance, and a paranormal thriller.

I also have to be careful about explaining the plot as part of the fun is discovering what’s going on, but suffice to say that the two main characters — Gabe, a disillusioned husband in his late thirties and Kim, a rebellious Afro-American in her late teens — are stranded somewhere on the Alaskan coastline after the cruise ship they are on is sliced in half by an unknown entity.

It’s a very intriguing premise, and Bill slowly drip-feeds us nuggets of information as the two survivors make their way inland. As the novel unfolds, they discover not only how and why all these strange things are happening to them, but also their blossoming feelings about each other.

This is where Bill’s second novel most closely resembles his first; also based around an unlikely and (at first) incompatible relationship. It’s a difficult thing to plot, even more so here as Kim is underage, but Bill manages to pull it off with style. The interactions between the two characters always felt believable, the teasing banter enjoyable, and the underlying eroticism never over-stated or gratuitous.

The novel ends on a surprisingly positive note, and two more books are planned, so hopefully Bill has some more surprises in store.