Castigo Cay, by Matt Bracken
Copyright Date: 2011
Publisher: Steelcutter Publishing
Kindle edition available.
Suitable for children? No. Probably not for most of the ladies either.
Castigo Cay is an intense novel, as evidenced by the fact that I managed to find the time to devour all 537 pages in only 36 hours, while also living the rest of my life. Once you get into this one there is no good time to put it down.
At its core it is reminiscent of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game and not just in the plot twist, but also the aristocrat, the tough brute and the small remote Caribbean island, but it is much more developed, and much more sinister than Connell’s short story.
The protagonist is Dan Kilmer, a relatively young man who served a stint in the sandbox as a USMC sniper, came home to go to college but had to drop out quickly when he snubbed the advances of a gay professor. From there he went to help an uncle rebuild an old steel schooner, and Dan inherited the schooner when his uncle died in an accident in the rebuilding process. Dan names the boat “Rebel Yell” and finds himself enjoying a life of freedom on the water. His only problem is that he can’t come back to America because he hasn’t been paying his health care tax and thus his boat would be subject to confiscation by the IRS if he were to bring it into American waters. Yes, this novel is set in the future, but it’s just a short jaunt forward. No fancy, new science fiction technologies, just the logical progression of current policy.
Dan’s life is fine until Cori Vargas gets impatient with him over her desire to get to Miami. Dan had picked her up in Venezuela. Her dream was to bring her “newly impoverished family” to America, and she was willing to be Dan’s girlfriend in order to achieve that. Dan got her to the Bahamas, but she wasn’t willing to wait for Dan to figure out how to get the rest of the way to Miami. She jumped ship and found herself in with the wrong crowd.
This particular “wrong crowd” is probably worse than anything anyone’s mother ever warned them about. There is a lot of power and influence in play, and some seriously sick minds. Matt Bracken is judiciously sparing of details, but it is clear that the young women who fall into the hands of these guys would be much better off dead. Not that these girls won’t end up there, but what happens to them on the route they take is the product of pure evil.
Dan finds himself trying to rescue the girl who snubbed him, spending his life’s savings and risking his life in the process. He is helped by Nick Galloway, a one-time Army Ranger, also in his early thirties, a fellow ex-pat, and by Kelly Urbanzik, a college co-ed who is a friend and neighbor of Mike and Sharon Delaney who Dan met when he rescued Mike from some local thugs when the Delaneys were vacationing in Cozumel, Mexico.
On account of the fact that Nick also recently served in the Sandbox, even though he and Dan were in different branches of the military, the two of them are able to work together effectively and efficiently. Their training and discipline is similar. A chain of command is immediately established with Dan as “Chu-tau” (Vietnamese for Captain).
Kelly is a hip college student who still lives in America and is able to help Dan and Nick navigate the new landscape which is Matt Bracken’s take on where America is headed. Kelly knows how to create fake IDs, how to acquire gasoline on the black market and how to sweet talk the police-gone-militia who now control a deeply depressed America.
Once the story gets moving (about sixty pages) the action and suspense are non-stop. There is risk in every move. Nowhere is there safety, nor is there any way to call for justice from any authority. Dan goes from Captain of Rebel Yell to Captain of his impromptu team and has to work through everyone’s personality challenges on the fly. Resources are scarce and there are few people who can be trusted, even when you are paying them. It makes for a very exciting read.
As survival literature this book has plenty of merit. I have seen several articles in which SurvivalBlog readers have suggested the water as a means of escaping the collapse. This novel addresses that strategy head-on, showing what it would look like and where some of the challenges lay. Boats are high maintenance items, and even with sail power available they have their limitations. Castigo Cay shows how to cope with some of those challenges and the lengths to which one must be able and willing to go.
There are some excellent parts dealing with camouflage, particularly of the types needed in the concrete jungle of society. A great deal of effort is put into what it takes to blend in and not show up as a target to either law enforcement or the criminal element, and how to change one’s identity in a matter of moments.
Going from the concrete jungle to the natural world there is a matter of finding and creating weapons, the value of that para-cord bracelet, plus what it takes to deal with a serious psychopath, who, by the way, is also prepping for the collapse of society and has plans to thrive when it happens.
Just for good measure, there is a bit of intrigue regarding politics, blackmail and just where all that money poured into environmentalism actually goes.
Provisos: Be advised that this is a book for a mature audience. While Matt Bracken will leave a sentence unfinished in order to avoid stating the graphic horror, it is still quite clear just how low and depraved some men can get in the abuse and torture of women. There is material in this book which can leave you awake at night.
Profanity is present, but it is used sparingly and for dramatic realism.
There are no sex scenes, but there are times of reminiscing for when there had been.
There are several fairly graphic deaths.
Again, this is a book for the mature, and at that, I would not hand it to my wife to read, but it is well written and offers some very practical considerations for the prepper. It is absolutely a page turner.
JWR Adds: SurvivalBlog readers will of course recognize Matt Bracken as the former U.S. Navy SEAL who authored the well-known novels: Enemies Foreign and Domestic, Domestic Enemies, Foreign Enemies and Traitors.