The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?
Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.
With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.
The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .
Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.
(From the Book Blurb)
What an exciting thriller this book proved to be! Although set in an entirely different context, this book made me think about two of my favourite reads from long time ago – Solaris by Stanslaw Lem and The Roadside Picnic by brothers Strugatsky (both belong to the classic science-fiction genre).
Alif Scholl’s parents are archeologists, so she has grown up around various digs and actually enjoys the task of washing and labelling archeological finds. She is thrilled to spend her summer at her father’s current dig near Dubai. Alif’s friends- Minh, Lori, Rowen and Luke- are joining her. There’s also Tommy Ortiz, Alif’s father’s student and assistant. On their way to the site Alif reads a blog post about the site which claims that there is a kind of curse on it. She brushes it off as a publicity trick, but later Tommy tell her that there was indeed a strange accident in which two people were hurt. Another strange event happens when a young exhausted and severely dehydrated French tourist wanders into the camp and whispers the name of a Messopotamian deity. Alif manages to get a few more sentences from him before he is taken away to a hospital.
The friends are beginning to get the hang of the site routine, when a terrible sandstorm hits. When it passes and Alif comes round, she sees no sign of the camp. Her friends and Tommy have to get back to civilisation, but they have no idea what their current location is. When the situation begins to seem desperate, they reach an oasis with crystal clear water and abundance of fruit. But can they trust the oasis and can they trust each other?
Soon strange dreams begin…
Alif and her five friends are all flawed characters with their own distinct personalities (something that becomes significant at the end of the book). The group dynamics was quite complex, but we only get Alif’s perspective and as the book progresses, it becomes clear that she is an unreliable narrator.
I really enjoyed Katya de Berrera’s seemingly effortless writing style and the way she kept my attention throughout the book. I did wonder quite often whether the events were just a hallucination brought by the gruelling journey through the desert under the unforgiving sun or whether the (post)-oasis events are manifestations of PTSD and then … the author surpassed all my expectations by giving us a mind-bending explanation.
I had a bit of trouble trying to categorize this book in terms of its genre: a thriller? a horror? fantasy? science fiction? Oasis is a gripping genre-bending story that will be appreciated by those who like a good adventure book set in a fascinating location.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Imprint Macmillan for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.