By Adam Nevill
Published by Macmillan, 2012.
I have a special section in my bookshelf for Adam Nevill and it’s not just because of the quality of his writing. The publication of Banquet For The Damned in 2008 marked a transitional point in the evolution of the current crop of British horror writers, the start of the current golden age in my opinion. Adam Nevill was, of course, the editor of the short-lived, but much admired, Virgin Books horror line which saw the horror section in bookshelves expand overnight. My copies of those books are treasured possessions but times move on and Nevill’s follow ups have been just as influential in re-introducing supernatural horror to the masses. From the ghosts of Barrington House in Apartment 16 to the pagan Scandinavian wilderness of The Ritual, Nevill has consistently delivered quality horror fiction.
Last Days tells the story of Kyle Freeman, an independent film maker, struggling to make end meet, who is made an offer he can’t refuse. Wealthy media tycoon Max Solomon wants Kyle and cameraman Dan to investigate the mysterious cult, The Temple Of Last Days which ended in bloody tragedy in the Arizona Desert in 1975. Initially the offer seems too good to be true but given his precarious financial position it’s not long before Dan and Kyle are off to interview the few people left who were involved in the tragedy.
Of course, it turns out things were too good to be true and our unlikely heroes soon find themselves embroiled in a much deeper, much more dangerous tale of supernatural happenings which stretches back for centuries and is still very real.
Last Days for me was a book of three parts. The initial sections were perhaps the most engaging as Dan and Kyle begin to feel the influence of the supernatural in more and more lurid encounters. The drama escalates quite quickly as the boys’ film-making becomes a fight for survival. The pace changes somewhat as the depths of the threat are explained through some protracted exposition in the middle section which is all fascinating and well constructed but just appears a bit slow after that thunderous start. The final few chapters bring us back to full speed though and the ending is suitably tense and fulfilling.
As always, it is the threat that engages most in Adam Nevill’s work. Drawing on the ghost story traditions of the likes of M.R. James and Arthur Machen, Nevill creates a realistic occult storyline on which he hangs his grotesque monsters. And what monsters they are, working beautifully as they slowly emerge from vague threat to full-blown horror and our protagonists realise the full extent of the crisis they find themselves in.
I don’t think this is Adam Nevill’s best book but then he has set such high standards for himself. The main characters are interesting but some of the lesser characters seemed a bit weak and stereotypical (I’m looking at you Jed) this coupled with that tendency to exposition in the middle section knocked half a point off the total score but don’t be mistaken, this is still a very good horror novel and one which fans of the supernatural should purchase without hesitation.
Rating 4 out of 5