Last Days is the latest and beefiest tome from British horror scribe Adam Nevill. It’s clear from the outset that this is Nevill’s most ambitious project to date, and in some ways, it’s also his most fascinating.
The story revolves around independent film maker Kyle Freeman, a man down on his luck as well as being in severe financial trouble. He is approached by a wealthy eccentric, Max Solomon, to produce a film about the infamous Sister Katherine and her cult The Temple of the Last Days. The cult was known for sexual depravity and acts of violence long before its bloody end in 1975. Max Solomon wants Kyle and his colleague Dan to interview the last few survivors of the group and piece together the story of the paranormal aspects of the cult’s existence.
The storyline of Last Days is just as gripping as the opening pages of The Ritual. Nevill has a real gift for hooking his readers in from the very first page. He quickly gives them something to chew on, building the intrigue and tension steadily from that point on. The book is excellently paced and the way in which Nevill drip feeds Kyle information from an increasingly shifty Max only adds to an already excellent premise.
Last Days grounded in meticulous research and planning. The details and techniques of independent filmmaking are put forward in a believable way. The back story surrounding The Temple of the Last Days is both dense and fascinating, being truly horrific yet plausible. However, the only real downside of the novel is that the last third of the story is somewhat slowed by the need for a quite lengthy period of exposition. It must be said that this section was genuinely interesting but it did detract from the build-up to the excellent ending.
The characters at the centre of the book are expertly painted by Nevill. Kyle is believable and largely sympathetic – the way he becomes engrossed by The Temple of the Last Days is alarming yet realistic. It’s Max Solomon who is the most interesting character here, though: he’s charming and duplicitous, yet strangely endearing at the same time. He’s an enigma and the way Nevill plays out this character is one of the key factors in the book’s success. It must be said that, aside from the two main characters, Kyle’s colleague Dan (who plays an important part) is left quite underdeveloped. Whilst he is meant to be sympathetic and innocent, it was hard to feel involvement with a character that isn’t as well-delineated as the other figures are.
The set pieces in Last Days are wide-ranging yet equally successful throughout. The experience that Kyle and Dan have at the first location, an apartment building in Clarendon Road, London, is a very chilling example of what is to come. The scene is the written equivalent of a set piece from films such as The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Translating something so subtle and visual via the written word in such a terrifying way is truly a triumph. Equally the interviews that are interspersed throughout the book hold as much terror and interest as the paranormal experiences do. The way Nevill describes the treatment and degradation of the cult members is also very effective.
In Last Days, Adam Nevill has managed to create a fusion of the Charles Manson mystique, the occult and a found footage documentary that is both a magnificent and gripping read from the very first page. The “old friends” mentioned throughout the book are truly terrifying and, as in The Ritual, Nevill demonstrates an unrivalled flair for describing the brutal and the obscene. Last Days is an ambitious, scary and remarkable step forward in the career of one of Britain’s finest horror writers, and one that that should already have readers looking forward to his next book.
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