Review: The Black: Arrival by Paul E. Cooley


The Set Up

The crew of the deep-sea exploration rig Leaguer discovers oil sweeter, purer, and sure to be more easily refined than anything that’s ever existed. To confirm their own analysis of their billion dollar find, a test barrel is flown from the drill site off the coast of Papua/New Guinea to Houston Analytical Laboratories (HAL).

As the unsuspecting scientists at HAL await the arrival of the oil, they ready their lab for what they know is an important job. They’ve seen the test results from Leaguer; this find could make history.

While the barrel is on its way to Houston, an “infection” breakThe Black: Arrival by Paul E. Cooleys out on the far-away rig. And as life aboard the rig descends into chaos, the scientists at HAL make their own discovery—what Leaguer found is indeed historic; it just isn’t oil. Instead, they’ve brought up a dangerous organism that could threaten all life on earth.

Trapped in their labs, the scientists must find a way to fight a creature that defies chemistry, physics, and biology.

The Black: Arrival, a parallel story to the Amazon Horror Best-Seller The Black, is a page-turning suspense novel that will fill you with claustrophobic terror.

Now that The Black has arrived, will humanity survive?

My Views

Having loved the first book in the series, The Black, of course I went on to read #2, The Black: Arrival.  Each of the three books in the series so far are really paraquels, meaning they take place at roughly the same time.  Still, while Paul has noted in posts that you can read them in any order, I’d really recommend reading them in the release order because the timeline makes just a bit more sense, as Arrival starts a few days after The Black.  It also adds more flavors as you know full well what’s going on when they reference the difficulties reaching people. 😀

The Black starts off the series on the off-shore oil rig.  With Arrival, we turn our attention to the lab that took the “oil” sample (that readers now know is the monstrous being).   Much like the first book, I read this one pretty much in one day, a nice Sunday of rest lounging on my new daybed.  So yeah, suffice to say, I loved it!

This one has a smaller cast, primarily the small group who are at the lab to do the weekend testing, their boss (who sounded like a great guy to work for), one of the scientist’s teenage daughters, and eventually a trio CDC folks.  Paul again manages to set up the cast and lay out their interpersonal connections and relationships in short order, and by the time the first accident you’re already hating the knowing feeling that most of them aren’t gonna make it.

One thing I really love about this series in particularly is that while it has many of the trappings of my favorite B-monster movies, it features actual competent, intelligent folks.  These are not people so stupid you’re screaming at the page for them to die.

They are skilled scientists, often respected in their fields, who don’t make stupid mistakes in the lab or do stupid things like ignore signs something is wrong.  They realize something is off quick fast and in a hurry and immediately start analyzing and trying to figure out what they have.  When one of the characters (not naming to avoid spoilers) falls ill, they don’t just brush it off, they get her to a hospital and take further precautions with the samples.

There were bits of the science that were hard for me to follow, but it all read well enough that I felt like Paul knew what he was writing about and that the characters knew what they were doing.

If I had any quibbles at all, it would be wishing the CDC folks were a little more fleshed out, particularly Dr. Hoyt who was in charge of the trio.  I found her attitude about the lab baffling, as she seemed very dismissive, at times was insulting their intelligence, and it really seemed as if she was looking down her nose at the folks there.  It made me curious as to why?  Did she find scientists working in “industry” to be beneath other scientists?  Did she think they were incompetent?

I also found it odd that the CDC seemed to have little knowledge about HAL, when I’d presume they know every lab that handles biological samples.  At the same time, considering the amount of research Paul seemed to do for these books, it could be a rather frightening reality that they have no clue about these places other than “it’s a lab, it does samples, maybe”.

That it is set in Houston is an extra bit of local flavor that makes for the fun bits of recognition (though not as much as I’d imagine folks who actually lived there would get).  I would certainly say I enjoyed Arrival just as much as the Black, and I’ve already started book three, Outbreak.  Hint: it takes place at the hospital where the sick lab scientists goes, so only 15% in there is so much carnage!!!!