Sunday, 4 August 2013

Adam Nevill is brilliant, and here's why

Not many writers can ignore every natural law in the book and still send shivers down your spine.  Adam Nevill can.  I've just read his latest book, Last Days, and I highly recommend it.


Last Days
Last Days is available here, with free shipping worldwide.

Writing paranormal horror presents an interesting challenge these days, because modern audiences are (usually) scientifically literate enough to be well aware that the phenomena you're describing don't exist.  It's fundamentally quite hard to scare people with things they don't believe in.

Some writers get around that by providing a scientific explanation for the supposedly supernatural elements in their work.  The Rage Virus is more frightening to modern audiences than the idea that a witch doctor can reanimate corpses, because the concept of the Rage Virus lurks uncomfortably close to the borderline of what modern people think could happen in real life.  My favorite example of this method is probably Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining.   Steven King famously hated Kubrick's film, and I think that's because he turned what King intended to be a ghost story into a story of alcoholism,  insanity,  and domestic abuse.   But in my opinion Kubrick made the story exponentially creepier.

Another option is to make the story ambiguous enough that the audience must form their own conclusions about what really happened.   A good example here is John Harding's Gothic thriller Florence and Giles.  Yes, you could make a good case for including The Shining in this category, but personally I wouldn't.

Adam Nevill doesn't use these tactics.  His subject matter is unashamedly, unambiguously supernatural.  And yet, it's some of the most disturbing stuff I've ever read.

Vampire stories were a lot cooler before Hollywood and that woman with the glitter fetish ruined them for everybody, but fortunately Adam Nevill is here to fix that for us.  It's hard to put a name to the... entities featured in Last Days, but they're unmistakably derived from medieval beliefs about the undead.  Last Days is the story of a murderous cult, and the director hired to film a documentary about it.  The protagonist Kyle Freeman is a modern man who doesn't believe in malevolent presences from beyond the grave, but finds it hard to argue with the evidence of his own camera.

The imagery in Last Days is a large part of the reason it works so well.  Nevill has always been good with imagery and he's on top form here, making even the impossible seem real.  This book immersed me in a kind of dream logic;  it was bizzarre and insane, but that wasn't apparent until afterwards.   It seemed so real at the time.  

I think I will have to do some Last Days fan art soon.