Meet The Crew
Spoiler Alert: This page is intended for people who have already read The Outbreak, and may contain information that spoils your enjoyment of the story if you have not done so yet.
Ben: Ben is the narrator of the novel and he is never provided with a surname. He's in his early thirties and he lives on his forty-five foot sailboat. A marine biologist by training, he runs a whale-watching business and spends his winters in the Canary Islands and his summers on the west coast of Scotland. In his younger days, he worked as a juggler and whenever he passes Glasgow, he stops off to see his old juggling partner, Tom. It is while on one of these stop-overs in his home city that Ben is caught in the middle of an outbreak of the Hatian Rabies Virus (HRS) which is rapidly spreading round the world. Ben and Tom, along with some other survivors they picked up along the way, eventually make it back to Ben's yacht and from there, they they head off for the safety of the sea. As the only person with any sailing experience, Ben finds himself the defacto leader of the small group of survivors, which at first troubles him as he feels responsible for them. However, with Tom's support, Ben realises that while he's the captain on board, when it comes to survival in a world where the land has been over-run by the infected, they must make their decisions as a group. While there are some similarities between Ben and Rob (the narrator in the first book in the For Those In Peril series), they represent two quite different personalities. Rob never asked to be in charge and had to learn to accept the responsibilities thrust upon him by circumstance. In contrast, Ben is much more of a natural leader, willing to take people under his wing and teach them what they need to know to survive. This doesn't mean that Ben has it any easier than Rob when it comes to coping with the way the world has changed, just that the pressures he faces are different.
Tom: As with Ben, Tom's surname is never provided in the book and, indeed, he never had one even in the early character sketched. Tom is Ben's old juggling partner and is a few years older than him, putting him in his late thirties. The only reason Tom survives the Haitian Rabies Virus outbreak in Glasgow is because he was lucky enough to be with Ben when it starts, and he know it. This means he sees his role within the group of survivors on Ben's boat primarily as providing Ben with the emotional support that only an old friend can provide. In many ways, it is Tom's presence which keeps Ben going, even when things seem their darkest. This makes Tom's eventual loss both devastating for Ben, and a threat to the survival of the whole group. While not based on any real person, Tom is a homage to the author's own juggling partner who, for many years worked on Buchanan Street in Glasgow, where the outbreak starts.
Daz: Daz's real name is Darren, but over the years he gained the nickname Dazzler from his friends and this inevitably got shortened to Daz. Daz comes from a relatively poor background and a dysfunctional family. This means he's used to having to fend for himself, yet this does little to prepare him for life amongst the infected. The outbreak forces him out of his home city for the first time in his life, and he find that, even though the world he once knew is gone, there is a whole new one out there he'd never have got to experience had it not happened, and he grasps the opportunity it offers with both hands. It is almost as if, amongst the collapse of civilisation, Daz has finally found the family he deserves, with Ben stepping into the role of father, Claire as mother and Sophie and Tom his siblings. Fostered by this surrogate family, we see Daz grow from your typical urban teenager to become Ben's right-hand man. Daz's character, at least initially, will be familiar to many who have been around teenagers. He's the type of person who has so much potential, but this can only be realised if they encounter someone who is willing to take the time to give them a push in the right direction. Unfortunately, many never get the push they need and are left to struggle on as best they can. The author counts himself among the ones as when he was that age he happened to be lucky enough to be taught by a biology teacher who was willing to take the time to encourage his interests and turn them into a career as a marine biologist.
Claire: Claire is a doctor and finds her skills in heavy demand as the outbreak develops. She is tough and cynical, but she's primarily driven by the need to ensure that she keeps her daughter safe. When hard decisions have to be taken, Claire's willing to take them, but this doesn't mean she's unaffected by them. We see this early on in the book when, known there is nothing else that can be done for him, she ends her young son's life rather than let him become one of the infected. The moment when Ben, Tom and Daz first meet Claire and her children took several attempts to get right. At first, Ben and the others were going to save Claire from the infected attacking her car, but this didn't fit with her personality. Instead, the scene was changed so that it is Claire herself that kills the infected as she fights to protect her kids. This seemed to fit better with how she reacts throughout the rest of the book. Similarly, in the earliest draft of the novel, Claire was called Mary, but this didn't seem to suit her, and was changed based on the suggestion of a more suitable name from one of the author's friends.
Sophie: Sophie is Claire's 14 year old daughter, who has a tendency to act as a petulant teenager, even as the world's falling apart around her. Yet, you, as the reader, can't blame her for acting this way, given all she's been through. Throughout all that happens, Sophie's anchor point in the world is her mother, and this provides her with the stability she needs to be able to cope. However, as the story develops, so does Sophie, and her growing relationship with Daz provides a hint that even though the world has been turned upside down, there may still be hope for the future. All this is threatened when Claire becomes infected while they are trying to escape from Rhum, and the reader is left wondering how she will cope without her mother. Yet, it is not longer just her and her mother, and she has become part of the larger family of survivors. With their support, she might just pull through. Never having been a teenage girl, the author found Sophie's character one of the most difficult to get right, and he had to rely on the advice and feedback from a range of female friends to get the right balance of childishness and adulthood found in a woman of her age.
Jake: Jake is Claire's six year old son, and so is Sophie's little brother. While he only appears briefly at the start of the story, he is key to one of its most moving scenes. This is where Claire is faced with the having to deal with the fact that Jake's been infected with the Haitian Rabies Virus and will soon turn, and then attack the other survivors in the boat. She soon realises that there's only one thing she can do both for him and for the others. Jake's name is borrowed from the son of one of the author's friends, and this means that it is short for Jacob.
Michaela 'Mitch' McDonald: Only four characters in the book are given surnames, and Mitch is one of them. Like Tom, Mitch in in her late thirties, and runs her own business flying her seaplane to destinations all along the west coast of Scotland. She is unlucky enough to be in Glasgow when the outbreak starts, but she's able to escape in her plane to the relative safety of the islands of western Scotland. While the reader only fids out about Mitch relatively late in the book, it turns out that, unknowingly, they'd already encountered her before. It is Mitch who guides Ben and his crew to Tobermoray, and therefore draws them into the events which will lead them to the book's finale. Mitch also provides a love interest for Tom, giving him a period of happiness before his eventual demise.
Hamish McDonald: Hamish is Mitch's cousin and while he is a relatively minor character, he plays a pivotal role in a number of key scenes, most notably the one in the pub in Tobermoray which seems to have been the catalyst for everything that subsequently happens. As with life, a small disagreement quickly spirals out of control a tempers flare and underlying tensions are revealed. In the original version of this scene, the fight in the pub between Hamish and Nick was given a very specific cause, but this just slowed the action down. Instead, in the final version it is left to the reader to decide what might have triggered it, based on what is said.
Commander Gordon 'Bucky' Buchanan-Smith: Commander Buchanan-Smith is a naval first officer and is known either as Gordon (to Ben and the other civilians) or Bucky (to the marines). Ben and the others first encounter Gordon at the blockade on the Firth of Clyde, although they don't find out his name until later. Here, he both helps them by providing antibiotics for the injured Tom and almost kills them when he brings a man carrying the disease into the holding area. After this, Gordon disappears from the story, only to resurface once Ben and the others reach Tobermoray. Gordon is ambitious and thinks he can re-create a relatively civilised community on Rhum, but he ha trouble persuading the locals to support his grand plans. While good intentioned, it seems that Gordon's plans inspire Nick to think of a quite different way of doing things, one that doesn't include Gordon. As a result, just as he set in motion the events which led to the small community of boats in he holding area of the Clyde being over-run, he also sets in motion the actions which will not only lead to his own death, but the deaths of almost all the other survivors spread across the community of islands strung out along Scotland's west coast.
Lieutenant Nick Nicholson: We know from early on in the book that Nick has a tendency to go a bit rogue and to do what needs to be done to get his own way, but at first it seems that Gordon can keep him under control. However, after the fight with Hamish and Tom in the bar in Tobermoray, we see start to see a very different side of him. Yet, it doesn't become clear quite what he's been up to until the very end of the story, when the reader finally finds out that he is the one responsible for so many communities becoming over run. He is also responsible for the death of Gordon, the destruction of Tobermoray and the torture of Tom. However, while Tom doesn't survive, he still manages to get revenge when his actions result in Nick becoming infected. Nick can be thought of as being high on the psychopathic spectrum ad his actions certainly suggest he can display superficial charm (as when he helps Sophie out of the rib on their first visit to Rhum) while being capable of complete and utter cruelty, just to get what he wants. Nick was the character who went through the greatest range of names as the book was written, starting as Jimbo (which was seen as too weak a name for a kick-ass marine), and passing through Lieutenant 'Ossy' Osman (which just didn't fit at all) beforefinally settling on Nick Nicholson.
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