The Drift by C.J. Tudor

A group of students are being evacuated to safety at The Retreat when their coach crashes, trapping them inside without food or water while a snowstorm rages and temperatures plummet. Elsewhere, a sudden power outage leaves another group similarly stranded in a cable car suspended high above the ground. Meanwhile, the group of people residing at The Retreat are facing their own perils. Supplies are dwindling, the power supply is unreliable, and everyone is on edge due to suspicious activities that have recently come to light.

The hazards each group faces are different, but they have a few things in common:
All are determined to survive.
None can call for help.
Their greatest fear, above all else, is exposure to the deadly virus that sometimes culminates in something far worse than death itself.

The Drift is narrated by three different characters (one from each group), and broken down into three sections as the story progresses. Given that each group is trapped (or has their movements severely restricted, at least) thanks to the snowstorm, I made several assumptions about how the story would play out. I thought the ‘meat’ of the story would be almost entirely focused on multiple escape attempts by each group, that would likely resolve with a rescue that miraculously happens—for all of them—just in the nick of time, and (almost) everyone would live happily ever after in the end. It would have been entertaining, but ultimately boring due to its predictability.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Instead, I was treated to a far more complex story that was mysterious in ways I hadn’t expected it to be. Despite having certain circumstances in common, I was surprised when I began to realize these groups were tied together in some less-than-obvious way; I just couldn’t figure out how they were connected. It was one of several mini-mysteries within the story, and my brain got a serious workout trying to piece together all the little clues, trying to figure out the who, the how, and the why of it all.

The most important players in this story were all fascinating to me. They were well written, and quite vivid in my mind’s eye. Even though they didn’t require a great deal of backstory for the purposes of this story, I still found myself wishing I could know more about them.

Similarly, there are a few events that are briefly referenced as having already happened that I would have loved to read about in greater detail. Characters that were little more than an occasionally mentioned name in reference to a past event were on my mind quite a bit. Who were they? Why did <event> happen? Is the narrator’s remembrance of it reliable, or simply a justification for their actions/inactions? I ordinarily don’t find myself so preoccupied with characters and events that barely exist in a story, but I was more than a little intrigued by them, despite the miniscule details that were given.

The resolution of each group’s story wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but they were all exciting and felt like a proper ending in each case. There was one detail of a particular survivor’s experiences that was left somewhat ambiguous at the end, and it’s left up to the reader’s imagination if the experience was real or not. Even though I’m typically frustrated by that sort of thing, even I have to admit it felt fitting, given the circumstances.

Overall, The Drift is a compelling read that will keep you guessing right up until the end, and leave you wanting more. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

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Author: C.J. Tudor
Title: The Drift
Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: January 31, 2023 by Ballantine Books

About the Book

Three ordinary people risk everything for a chance at redemption in this audacious, utterly gripping novel of catastrophe and survival at the end of the world, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man.

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors. They’ll need to work together to escape—with their sanity and secrets intact.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board. They are heading to a place known only as “The Retreat,” but as the temperature drops and tensions mount, Meg realizes they may not all make it there alive.

Carter is gazing out the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, something hiding in the chalet’s depths threatens to escape, and their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails—for good.

The imminent dangers faced by Hannah, Meg, and Carter are each one part of the puzzle. Lurking in their shadows is an even greater danger—one with the power to consume all of humanity.

About the Author

C.J. TUDOR is the author of The Chalk ManThe Hiding PlaceThe Other People, and The Burning Girls. She lives in England with her partner and their daughter. Over the years, she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over artist, dog walker and, now, author.