‘Black Tide’ by KC Jones: A cinematic, nightmare-fueled read

This Black Tide book review establishes one fact for certain: KC Jones’ novel is full of nightmares.

While Black Tide is not, by definition, a beach read, it does mostly take place on a beach. You can also certainly read it on the beach if you want some extra ambiance, but you might find yourself locked in your car, searching the sand for mysterious shimmers, wishing you’d brought something more than SPF 50 to protect yourself.

Black Tide is a book about an alien invasion, sure, but it’s first and foremost about people. Beth and Mike’s paths cross early on in the story—Beth is house sitting next door, and Mike is staring off into the distance like he’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Both of them are complete messes in different ways. Beth, for her part, can’t seem to keep her life on the rails. Every time she finds something good, she seems to destroy it. Or at least that’s what her mom tells her. She’s accepted it as her lot in life, and she’s bound to make the most of this job before she moves onto the next one.

Mike, on the other hand, seems like a stable guy on the outside. He’s a movie producer who owns a nice car and a big house. He’s got bottles of champagne to spare, but he’s been more than just a little melancholy since his wife walked out. Since then, he hasn’t had much interest in this little thing called life.

The two hookup that night, and it’s the start of something for both of them. If this were a romance novel, they’d find their feelings for each other too much to ignore, and they’d end up happily ever after. If this were a thriller, Mike would be a serial killer, and Beth would have to fight for her life. Or, plot twist! Maybe Beth is the serial killer, and Mike is the one who needs to figure out how to survive the night.

But this novel is part science-fiction, part horror, which means there’s at least a chance no one finds love and neither survives the night. I’m keeping this Black Tide book review spoiler-free, so you’ll just have to read it yourself.

These two characters are the kind that you don’t particularly love, but you do find yourself rooting for. You want them to be better. You want Beth to find stability, and you want Mike to find happiness. The fascination is in seeing them thrown into the apocalypse as complete strangers and watching them learn more about each other—and, more importantly, about themselves.

This is a self-described character-driven novel, and I completely agree with that. It switches points of view between Beth and Mike, and it’s interesting to see them butt heads, open up to each other, and finally understand what makes the other tick. They aren’t always pretty, but they are always real.

That said, this book is simply brimming with action. It’s the type of novel that would make an excellent movie, and given KC Jones has a background in film production, that makes sense. It’s highly cinematic and reminds me of the claustrophobic feel of 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Once the action starts, it doesn’t let up. This book lives by Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. Every chapter brings forth a new life-or-death problem. It seems like these characters can never catch a break, and even when they did, it felt like they took one step forward only to take 10 steps back.

The aliens themselves are living nightmares. I don’t want to spoil the different kinds, but each one is more unique than the last. Not only were they sinister, but they were creative and—dare I say it—sometimes beautiful. If nothing else, they were certainly cinematic. I cannot stress enough how much I would love to see these creatures portrayed on screen.

The stakes were incredibly high throughout the book, and we see real consequences to people’s actions. These monsters weren’t just mindless killing machines, either. They learned how to hunt us over the course of the book. And even worse, the ones we see face-to-face might not be the biggest, baddest predators around.

I always try to use articles like this Black Tide book review to recommend these novels to the right audience. Not everyone will love Black Tide because of the ending. I enjoyed that it was open-ended, that those left standing still had a journey ahead of them, but that doesn’t mean everything works out for the good guys.

If you’re into the kind of horror/sci-fi movies that scare you and make you think, the kind that remind you we’re fragile creatures with a whole lot left to lose, then Black Tide is for you.

And I’m convinced that if this does ever get adapted, it’s going to be talked about in the same sentence as A Quiet Place and Cloverfield, among others. It’s a classic in the making, and as much as I loved reading it, I hope it gets a second life on the big screen some day.

‘Black Tide’ hit store shelves on May 31, 2022

Buy Black Tide by KC Jones from Macmillan, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, or Amazon. You can also add it to your Goodreads list.

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