by Adam Nevil
Kyle Freeman is a documentary film maker down on his luck. Deep in debt, he accepts an assignment from enigmatic Max Solomon to produce a film about a cult from the 60s and 70s. The cult was ruled by Sister Katherine and spread from England to France and met its bloody end in the Sonoran desert. Kyle takes the project even though the time frame for completion is short. What he doesn’t understand is that by interviewing surviving members of the decades’ old cult and visiting the abandoned places where Sister Katherine’s madness was revealed, he is inviting forces he doesn’t understand to become aware of him. Soon, he sees shapes in the walls of old structures, his dreams are plagued with nightmarish experiences, and entities too horrible to comprehend haunt him wherever he goes. Can he find the answers before it’s too late?
I’ve read hundreds of horror stories, books filled with supernatural plots. Most of them I’ve enjoyed. Some of them I haven’t. This book ranks up those by masters like Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. This takes the typical nutty religious cult to a new level.
Kyle Freeman: early 30s, documentary film maker, in debt, smokes, owns a cat, has tattoos on his arms
Maximillian Solomon: CEO of Revelation Productions, tiny stature, graceful, glittering eyes, tanned, thin hair implants, had a facelift, was an original member of The Last Gathering cult, has a degree in Economics
Dan: Kyle’s partner, early 30s, white hair, bulky, smokes
Finger Mouse: Kyle’s film editor, early 30s, computer guru, 19th Century beard, milky green complexion
Susan White: Sister Isis when she was in The Last Gathering cult, white hair, hunched body, thin skin, blue eyes, lives in Brighton
Rachel Phillips: QC, former tenant of The Last Gathering’s house, plump, blonde, wears glasses, former United Nations employee
Arthur Smith: Brother Gabriel when a member of the The Last Gathering, wears glasses, has dandruff, thin, greasy grey curly hair, white beard, cares for his elderly mom in his small flat, bad breath
Martha Lake: 58, former member of The Temple of the Last Days in America, thin, grey lined white hair, once attractive features gone to seed, brownish teeth, smoker, drinks whiskey, has three children by three different men, came from an abusive father and alcoholic mother, dropped out of high school, took drugs
Vivid characters, detailed, in depth. They’re what you might expect, and more. The descriptions of the scene or where the characters are or live fit each character.
Nevill is British and so are many of his characters so there are British idioms, phrasing, and slang. Excellent voices and characterizations. A lot of the dialogue is narration by various characters explaining about the cult so there are long narratives. Because of the nature of the story, this is how the reader learns more and only adds to the bigger picture.
The book is separated into parts or sections, titled. Long chapters. Profanity. Nevill writes with incomplete sentences, starting many with conjunctions. This is not necessarily distracting and he’s experienced enough editors would allow this. Nevill is akin to Lovecraft in that he doesn’t show you the ‘monster’ in its full horror, but teases, lets the terror sneak and settle in. Some books spark the imagination. This one lit a bonfire. Some horror books never quite get going. This one leaps forward into something special.