Book Review: Quiet Places by Jasper Bark

“Quiet Places is an adventurous novella from Jasper Bark and one that pays off, with its slower, quieter story allowing us to feel closer to the protagonist and all the more to suffer from the gut punch of its conclusion.”

Quiet Places opens with a prologue that launches the reader head-first into a weird, unsettling scenario. Sally is the only remaining sentient being in a remote Scottish highland town, the other residents soulless shells of their former selves, slowly dying while she tries to tend to them and keep them alive. From here the story backtracks, unpacking how this situation came to be, via a curse on Sally’s boyfriend. David’s family and the presence of a trans-dimensional being, known only as ‘The Beast.’

Fans of Jasper Bark’s work will note that, with this novella, there is a certain shift in tone. Where with some of his previous works, such as The Final Cut and Run to Ground, he wrote at a million miles an hour, every page a huge stride of high octane adventure, Quiet Places is, appropriately enough from the title, a quiet story. The story is more character driven than much of his previous work and the relationship between the protagonist and her cursed lover is exposed in a detail that affords the reader a good deal of sympathy for her situation.

It would be wrong though to say that Quiet Places lacks action. Crystal Lake Publishing have categorised it as cosmic horror and in that area it certainly delivers. Interdimensional travel and cosmic beings are described in rich detail, with depictions of violence that are vivid and disturbing, but never gratuitous. The scenarios and creatures in these scenes also feel well-researched and the author has helpfully included some references for readers to discover more, along with a playlist of tracks he listened to during the writing process.

If there is to be a criticism of Quiet Places, it is with the timeline. After the prologue, which takes place chronologically at the end of the story, the reader’s curiosity is piqued to discover the cataclysmic event that left this town full of husks of men, women and children. The twenty-one chapters of the book though also take place in a non-linear order, sometimes requiring the reader to think for a while about which events have come before or after some others.

Overall though, Quiet Places is an adventurous novella from Jasper Bark and one that pays off, with its slower, quieter story allowing us to feel closer to the protagonist and all the more to suffer from the gut punch of its conclusion.

KEV HARRISON

Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Paperback (105pp)
Release Date: 23 September 2017

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