I first learned about the Road of Bones by watching The Long Way Round, in which Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman rode motorcycles from London to New York. Their route took them over the Road of Bones. Most of this 1,262 mile road is gravel and was one of the most challenging parts of the journey because of the climate, the road conditions, and the sheer isolation. The history of the Road is just as harrowing. It was constructed by gulag prisoners over the course of decades. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 250,000 to possibly one million people died during the Roads construction. If any place in the world is haunted, it’s probably the Road of Bones. So when I saw Christopher Golden’s Road of Bones listed on NetGalley, I snapped at the chance to read it.
Fittingly enough, Road of Bones is about a hellish road trip. Teig and Prentiss have arrived in Siberia to film some kind of documentary in the wilderness. Teig has experience working on ghosthunter-type shows and hopes to find something similarly spooky in the taiga. Prentiss is along because Teig is his best friend. Also, Teig owes him a lot of money. But things are not going well right from the first page. Teig falls asleep at the wheel and almost kills both of them before they even meet their guide. Only a few hours after meeting their guide, things get even worse when they come across a village deserted except for one child who refuses to speak. Then the wolves come out of the forest.
I wasn’t expecting a chase story when I picked up this book. Frankly, I didn’t think the road conditions could support high-speed chases. Teig and Prentiss—plus the silent child and a stranded woman they picked up—are chased for miles through snow and deadly cold. No one knows what’s happening or why. All they know is that something woke up in the forest and that it won’t rest until they’re all dead. Meanwhile, a very elderly woman is making her way down the Road of Bones, praying that the ghosts of the people who died making the road will rest in peace.
This lightning-fast book doesn’t rest for a minute. It didn’t let me rest, either; I inhaled this book in a single evening. This book could’ve used some pauses. There are some fascinating elements pulled from the beliefs of the Indigenous peoples of Siberia, plus the region’s bloody history that I would’ve loved to learn more about. I also wanted to learn a lot more about Ludmilla, the woman whose life’s quest is to free the trapped souls in the Road of Bones. I suspect that this book is too traditional horror genre for my tastes. I enjoyed the thrills, but I wanted something more to think about than outrunning the strange, deadly things in the forest.