Just a few pages into Adam Nevill‘s supernatural horror novel Last Days and I was reminded why exactly he’s my favourite British horror author. His deft touch with all things in the arena of dread literature, his ability to craft a masterful supernatural tale within highest quality prose, and continue to deliver highly appropriate shocks throughout; these things are all evident here.
Last Days is the story of Kyle Freeman, an independent film-maker with some minor-successes under his belt, but who’s not yet made it big. Debt-laden, and desperate for success, it’s still with a little reluctance that he’s contracted by media mogul-type, Max Solomon, to shoot a documentary. The subject of that is to be an end-of-days cult, whose doom-laden finale played out in a bloody show-down in Arizona over thirty five years previously. Kyle brings his long-term camera man and erstwhile friend Dan along for the ride, and the pair embark upon a tightly scheduled film and interview schedule with key players in the cult’s horrifying last years and months, and then days, of existence.
The idea of the cult is so well implemented in this story. The background, the personalities, the power-plays – it’s actually some interesting stuff, and the time and age(s) in which this parasitic organisation existed is also fastidiously researched and interwoven into the plot’s wider elements. It’s not just any pop-culture-heavy recycled plot-element being engaged here, but a highly relevant and often disturbing mechanism to advance a chilling story.
It’s likewise supported in this frame-work by some creepy ideas indeed. The shadows which fall upon ceilings and walls, which Kyle and Dan encounter, these creeping and furtive other-things which threaten their presence upon our world, were scary indeed. I won’t go into too much detail but will say I found delight in the reading of these evil, well, things which had been created for the sake of giving us, good reader, a few potentially sleepless nights!
As with his prior works, the pages of Last Days are soaked with supernatural dread. Nevill is a master in this area. I think when most kids were drinking milk and eating cookies Nevill was too – but alongside was reading lots of horror literature, and observing the styles and tones, the wordplay and effectiveness of H. P. Lovecraft, M. R. James and their ilk. There is that feel of a fastidious obsession about his works that makes you sit up and take notice – usually because some particular paragraph is sending a shiver down your spine.
One of the things that grabs me time and time again in Nevill’s work – from novel through short-story – is the sense of paranoid and dread-laced suffocation he’s able to create in the atmosphere of his writing. Whether in the likes of Florrie from the strong House of Fear anthology, or as within the confines of the corridors and rooms of Apartment 16 there is a continual cloying and nagging pressure which he builds up and maintains so well. In Last Days this most alluring (or should that be terrifying, depending on the persective of the reader!) portion of Nevill’s skillset is put so effectively into play.
Whether in the hallways, or rooms, or even in vast and open swathes of land, he again injects one’s senses with a sense of disorder and uncertainty. As Kyle and Dan make their way forward in their journey, such horrors they encounter are exacerbated masterfully with Nevill’s keystrokes. And to its strengths the plot, as mentioned, is steeped in a lore such that you cannot help but read on for more information as to what’s really gone on, and what’s going on, for those unfortunate enough to have been caught up in the poisoned web of the cult of the Last Days.
I read alot of horror, supernatural and weird fiction. Much of it is worth reading, some of it too is worth recommending, whilst granted there’s a fair amount too that’s forgettable. With Last Days Adam Nevill reminds us once again why he’s an author not only worth reading, but worth recommending, even praising, and likely due to the nature of what he writes, an author whose stories won’t be forgotten in a good long while.