Saturday, March 23, 2013

Last Days, by Adam Nevill

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
531 pages
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Description: Last Days by Adam Nevill is a Blair Witch style novel in which a documentary film-maker undertakes the investigation of a dangerous cult—with creepy consequences 

When guerrilla documentary maker, Kyle Freeman, is asked to shoot a film on the notorious cult known as the Temple of the Last Days, it appears his prayers have been answered. The cult became a worldwide phenomenon in 1975 when there was a massacre including the death of its infamous leader, Sister Katherine. Kyle’s brief is to explore the paranormal myths surrounding an organization that became a testament to paranoia, murderous rage, and occult rituals.  The shoot’s locations take him to the cult’s first temple in London, an abandoned farm in France, and a derelict copper mine in the Arizonan desert where The Temple of the Last Days met its bloody end. But when he interviews those involved in the case, those who haven’t broken silence in decades, a series of uncanny events plague the shoots. Troubling out-of-body experiences, nocturnal visitations, the sudden demise of their interviewees and the discovery of ghastly artifacts in their room make Kyle question what exactly it is the cult managed to awaken – and what is its interest in him? (From the back cover.)

Review: What a difference the ending of a book can make.

Going into this book, I was a little worried about how well a Blair Witch/REC/Paranormal Activity type book would work as compared to its film counterparts. From the early chapters of the book, my answer was, not nearly as well as it does on video.

Some of the problem stemmed for what my original problem with the book, the pacing. The author seemed to be rushing the creepy revelations and giving the reader too much info, too soon. Not an insurmountable problem, but not a great sign.

However, the cult and the creepy revelations held my interest, and besides the slight hiccups of one truly awful simile* and an attempt to write out a minor character's accent, I was curious about how the author would wrap up the story.

Then I got to chapter twenty-nine.

At this point the author suddenly introduces a new character, Jed. Jed is the rootinist, tootinist, action-movie clich├ęd American you'll probably run into in a book that isn't trying to be a parody. He comes out of nowhere, and he signals a tone shift from Blair Witch to, charitably, a mediocre survival/horror video game. He is accompanied by a couple of last minute revelations about the demonic creatures that have been reeking havoc on the life of the main character. They're vulnerable to bullets, which isn't useful info for characters spending most of their time in London, so I can forgive that one, and salt. Why is this first coming up less than one hundred pages from the end of the book?

It also seems to be completely forgotten in the last chapter.

The entirety of the last chapter consists of poorly thought out plan to raid a sealed off house, full of demonic being vulnerable to light, bullets, and salt. Yet despite a claim of several weeks of planning, the characters don't seem to have come up with good ways to use any of the above, even the guns.

Frankly, the ending is mess and that dropped my rating from a 3.5 or maybe 4 stars, down to one.

*"In the dim room Martha's face glowed faintly like unsalted butter." I checked, American butter doesn't glow. My mother, currently visiting  from London, doesn't believe her's does either, but she admits it never occurred to her to check.

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