"Down" Book Review
Written by Nate Southard
2012, 144 pages, Fiction
Released on June 9th, 2012
Nate Southard is one of the best short story writers in horror. He's also one of the lucky few who can write novels equally well. In Down, Southard unleashes his gory, fast-paced prose on a narrative that brings together a classic survival/monster story with a weird psychological slant. The result is a creepy novel that drags the reader into a dark world where reality starts to blur and the creatures that stalk the night are motivated by something the victims can't even begin to imagine.
Down takes place in 1992. Following a sold out concert in Austin, Texas, the members of Frequency Brothers, a popular band, board a plane is headed for New York, where they will be shooting their next video. The band, the manager, pilots and co-pilot, and a Rolling Stone writer are all on board when something goes wrong and the plane goes down in the middle of the night. The survivors find themselves stranded in the woods. Some are relatively fine, a few are dead, and the rest are seriously injured. To make things worse, they soon learn there is a large creature in the woods that seems to want to make them disappear into the night one by one. The band members find themselves fighting for survival and wondering if rescue is on the way. As they try to look for help, they find the woods hold sinister secrets. In the end, whatever is out there might just be a small portion of something much bigger and infinitely more menacing.
Down is an interesting read because it morphs into something unexpected. During the first third, the story is a classic storyline: a group of survivors are lost in the woods and a beast is attacking/scaring them. However, Southard puts a few spins on the tale. When the survivors find a strange hole in the ground with blood and bones covering the bottom, the creature starts to become secondary. Later, strange markings in the trees kick off a spooky supernatural twist that carries the story all the way to its disturbing conclusion.
Not satisfied with providing a shifting narrative, Southard adds layers to Down via the relationships between the survivors and the things that make each character unique, which include addiction, regret, infidelity, and a compulsion to make mental lists. As the survivors deal with the external problems, their internal turmoil manages to create as much tension as the growling thing trying to drag them away from the wrecked plane.
Southard is one of horror's top names and Down is a solid addition to his already impressive resume. Its mixture of paranormal danger, gore, and tension make this book an entertaining read that I'd recommend picking up today and, if you have the opportunity, reading it in a plane.