“There is not one single tale which feels less than the others, none which seem to be mere ‘filler’. They are beautifully crafted, original and complete works which nevertheless fit well together as arranged by the author.”
Anyone who considers themselves a serious reader of horror fiction cannot fail to have heard the name of Adam Nevill (and if you have, shame on you). Chances are, they’ve even read some of his work. He is the author of seven highly acclaimed novels, ranging from the haunted house (Apartment 16) to deeply primal pagan horror (The Ritual), and even taking in the post-apocalyptic (Lost Girl). Every novel is imbued with his own distinct voice, his own unique intent and lean prose. In Some Will Not Sleep, his first collection, Adam has taken the decision to release some of his shorter works in a package wholly created, designed and produced by himself, through his own publishing company, Ritual Limited.
This review is of the limited edition hardback, which comes with a signed card and bookmark in an envelope. Optional is a t-shirt with the Limited Ritual name and logo imprinted, which can also be ordered by itself. Contained within a gorgeously produced—the perfect and sombre cover designs are wholly representative of the contents—and solidly bound book are eleven stories of dark, grim supernatural events.
The subject matter ranges from children exploring a reputed haunted house (‘Where Angels Come In’), to nightmarish depictions of possible future dystopias (‘Mother’s Milk’ and ‘Doll Hands’), even to weird west (’What God Hath Wrought?’). Each piece is wholly, completely distinctive and though the majority are written in first person, and many from the point of view of children, the tone and style is unique story to story. What does unify every single short collected here—aside from Nevill’s subtly distinctive prose; certain word and phrases used almost like signatures—is a singular vision, a purity of intent. And a level of craft and quality that is rare to find in most writers. There is not one single tale which feels less than the others, none which seem to be mere ‘filler’. They are beautifully crafted, original and complete works which nevertheless fit well together as arranged by the author.
Many of the stories illustrate the seeds of inspiration which also led to the creation of some of Adam’s novels. Notably, ‘The Original Occupant’, which is a tale within a tale within a tale–an excellent device if pulled off correctly, as it is here–of a man who decides to spend a year living in a remote cabin in the wilds of Sweden, but comes to believe that there is something inhuman in the surrounding forest; something ancient, primal, and hostile. Its tone is reminiscent of a ‘classic’ mode of storytelling, yet the setting is pure pagan/primal horror, and is the perfect companion to The Ritual, a novel with a similar setting but written in a completely different style. Then there is both ‘Doll Hands’ and ‘To Forget and Be Forgotten’, both hugely disparate tales yet unified by their use of a night-watchman as protagonist in an isolated and isolating position in an apartment block complex; an employment experience of the writer which also found its way into Apartment 16. Yet all of these stories follow different themes, have distinct flavours. Rather than rehashing similar concepts in different stories, Nevill shows just how much inspiration and variety can be gleaned from casting a literary eye over one’s life and experiences. ‘Yellow Teeth’ refracts the unpleasantness of sharing a living space with an unwanted and odious ‘guest’ and adds in a dark mythology which melds an almost Mythos type of fiction to the darkest side of mental illness. ‘Florrie’ explores the nature of age and change, the powerful hold the past can have, human nature’s resistance to change; and manages to create a sympathetic and melancholic piece which still exudes creeping terror.
These stories are literate and literary, elegant and brutal. They manage to walk a thin line between art and simple entertainment, and walk it with ease while still conveying peril. For whilst there is horror here, dark and grimy, there is also insight and subtlety, atmosphere and emotion. This is what marks Nevill out as a true talent; his ability to adhere to a pure vision of horror whilst also bringing a literary nuance. How much of this is intentional and how much accidental is unsure (though the level of craft surely speaks to the deliberate), but it is there.
Adam Nevill is, without doubt, one of our best; not just in the UK, or in horror, but in the world of literature itself, and it’s a damn shame that the wider public have such an aversion to works released under the banner of ‘horror’, for there is clearly an appetite for these stories when they are marketed otherwise. Or perhaps it is simply that the tide is slowly rising. If so, we can sit back and revel in the fact that we were there first; that we were reading Adam Nevill from the start. And if you aren’t, then this collection might just be the perfect place to begin.
Publisher: Ritual Limited.
Limited signed hardback (400 copies), paperback and eBook: (280 pp)
Release Date: 31 October 2016.
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