Monday 18 June 2012

Last Days.

My first experience of Adam Nevill's writing was his excellent short story Little Mag's Barrow which opened the very good collection of stories in Gray Friar Press's Terror Tales of the Lake District. Shortly after I read What God Hath Wrought in Conrad Williams' collection Gutshot - a brilliant story that channeled the spirit of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridien. Having been mightily impressed by both, I was eager to read Adam's novels Apartment 16 and The Ritual and was equally as impressed with these two longer works. The latter is possibly the most unrelentingly tense book I've ever read, a true "unputdownable" novel.
Adam is a wonderful writer, creating tension and imagery that is truly terrifying. His books are cinematic, reading one is the closest you'll come to watching a film in terms of your emotional responses. This is in no way damning with faint praise. It could be argued that it's easier for a film-maker to scare you than a writer, haing so many more "tools" available to them so for a writer to achieve the same takes real skill, creating imagery and working on the reader's imagination to instill fear rather than presenting it to them "on a plate" with added sound effects, crashing chords etc. Adam Nevill does this, in spades-ful. It's fitting therefore that Last Days concerns the making of a film. In this case a documentary about a mysterious cult, The Temple of the Last Days, led by the infamous Sister Katherine which (as the back cover blurb puts it) "reached its bloody endgame in the Arizona desert".
The novel charts the making of the documentary and it's a clever device, cleverly used. The reader discovers more and more about the cult at the same time as the novel's protagonist Kyle Freeman does through the course of the interviews he records with the cult's surviving members.
There are some nice references to Adam's earlier novels - Kyle has made a documentary about the events descibed in The Ritual and the book shares some locations with Apartment 16 (and some imagery, particularly in a painting that may, or may not hold the key to unlocking some of the mysteries of the cult).
I really liked Last Days. The film-making device works really well in telling the story, the characters are totally believable and, most importantly of all, it's scary as hell. There's a passage where Kyle is reviewing the recordings he's made after the first interview that is brilliant - tense, scary and utterly terrifying. I had to put the book down after I'd read it, it's that effective.
The tension is maintained throughout the whole novel and Adam has created some truly scary monsters in the "Blood Friends". As for the ending, I didn't think it worked when I first read it but having thought about it in retrospect I've changed my opinion - it's exactly what would have happened, is entirely in character. I can see it being a talking point though.
It's a great book, thoroughly recommended.

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