Monday 3 November 2014

Back to Black.

All good things must come to an end and so it is with the Spectral Press serialisation of Simon Bestwick's Black Mountain. Fittingly, the end came on Hallowe'en with the release of the last installment, The Dancers in the Pines - and it's hard to believe that the saga began way back in December of 2013. I reviewed the "work in progress" here so it seems only fitting to complete that process now that the last words of the novel have been committed to... err...the virtual ether.
It's taken another six episodes to complete the story of the eponymous Welsh mountain since that last review which described the fate of Russell Ware, the journalist who'd coined the phrase "The Bala Triangle" to describe the area around Mynydd Du, a place where unexplained phenomena and mysterious deaths and disappearances are rife.
The subsequent installments follow the same pattern as the first five, presented as transcripts and testimonials, presenting the evidence accumulated by Ware and, as the progressing story reveals, earlier visitors to the region. The book as a whole is the literary equivalent of a Matroyshka doll, revealing layer upon layer of information, digging deeper and deeper into the history of the region (episode 9 - Ancient Voices - takes the story back to the Roman occupation of Britain and even then hints that the evil goes back even further than that).
I'll state again how complementary the episodic release of the story has been to this style of presentation. Each episode works as a story in its own right but also reveals enough new information to keep the reader hooked and desperate for the next installment.
The story began way back in 2013 with the introduction of the author himself as the narrator and as the book neared its conclusion I had concerns as to how this device would work. All I will say is that it does work - and in an extremely clever and entertaining way. Call it post-modern, meta-fiction even but however you look at it, it's bloody good and rounds off the ten month journey in style.
Mention needs to be made too of the stunning art work which adorns the covers of the individual episodes, provided by Neil Williams. It's great news that a print version of the complete book will be produced next year so that the art - as well as the words - can be fully appreciated. The cover image I've used for this review (episode 10, The Watcher) is my favourite of them all - and is possibly my favourite of the episodes too. I mentioned the "found footage" analogy in my previous review and this device is used within the story itself in this installment to great effect. I had to put the kindle down at one point, so effective - and downright scary - was the imagery being presented. That hasn't happened since I read Adam Nevill's Last Days - so kudos to Mr Bestwick for that.
If you haven't already, you can buy Black Mountain here (and visit the Spectral site for the first installment) - you really should.

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