"Last Days" Book Review
Written by Adam Nevill
2013, 531 pages, Fiction
Released on February 26th, 2013
A chronology of my thoughts while reading Last Days:
- Page 50: “Money problems are a bit overdone, aren’t they?”
- Page 124: “Well...that’s disturbing.”
- Page 230: “I’m too scared to pick this book up.”
- Page 350: “I’m too scared to put this book down.”
- Page 475: “AAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”
- Three days after finishing: “I wish I had more Last Days to read."
The three Indiana Jones movies (yes, three. The blasphemy referred to as fourth will never be welcome in my world) were exceptional in dealing with their supernatural mysticism without proselytizing. Their sensible approach to theology while maintaining reverence to the inexplicable was inviting and open and captivating. I find the same is true with Adam Nevill’s (The Ritual) novel Last Days, albeit in a much more frightening manner.
Kyle Freeman is a down-on-his-luck guerrilla filmmaker commissioned to make a documentary about a cult called the Temple of the Last Days that imploded into murder forty years ago. The contracts and releases are signed, the shooting locations are locked down, the plane tickets are paid for. Sounds too good to be true, right? The trouble begins immediately as ghosts from the past are brought back to life when Kyle and his best friend and colleague Dan discover the cult’s true aims and they’re both sucked into a world of the mystical and terrible that could cost their lives...and souls.
Nevill’s creatures and character descriptions are inspired, so the moments when his writing isn’t quite as brilliant are more stark, but that only cost this book one star in my estimation. He never overuses his characters; they are only there when they need to be. Sometimes it works to have these sudden introductions and departures and sometimes it’s not quite as effective, but once you’re into this story you’re hooked.
Most impressive is the depth of the world that Nevill creates in his story. I’ll need to gloss over the fine details to keep from spoiling the plot, but he invents a painter, a heretic, and a history so rich and full of life that I was Googling their names to see if I could find their work in museums. The use of multiple locations was refreshingly similar to Indiana Jones’ world-hops; it strengthened the notion that the evil chasing Kyle and Dan was not only universal but ageless. F*cking scary. (Note: The editor wanted me to write out “fucking”, but I’m a lady and do not do such things, goddammit.)
The final solution was a bit...easy for me. I say that with hesitation since it is not at all easy to do what Kyle does, but when dealing with the supernatural it always took Indy more than a handgun to survive. And the problem was never truly solved (spoiler alert for those lazy wankers who haven’t found the time in thirty years to watch Indiana Jones): the Ark was sealed in the warehouse but fully active, the blessed stones were still magic at the bottom of that crocodile-filled river, and the Holy Grail was intact when it rolled into the chasm under the Temple. Knowing that unwieldy power was still out there, waiting for its chance to return and wreak havoc creating a gnawing, lingering anxiety that was part of the experience and enjoyment of the film. With the creativity and genius Nevill exhibits in all other aspects of this novel, I’d hoped for something that would blow my mind rather than leave me shaken with a nightlight on.
That being said, this book is deliciously terrifying to read and I’m on the verge of picking it up again. That cult certain knows how to gain followers...