"The Ritual" Book Review
Written by Adam Nevill
2012, 418 Pages, Fiction
Book released on February 14th, 2012
If I've learned anything from my exposure to films like Friday the 13th, it's that I will never go camping. Aside from obvious dangers such as ticks, poison ivy, and bears, there's always the possibility of a psychopathic killer lurking in the woods just waiting for me to go out for a midnight piss so he can brutally slaughter me. Despite the obvious pitfalls of an outdoor adventure, people still venture out into the wilderness on a regular basis and then act surprised when they come back with a few less members of their group. Case in point, Adam Nevill's The Ritual.
Set in the scenic Scandinavian countryside, four friends approaching their late thirties decide to take a trip together like old times. Unfortunately, they're not all up for a hike through the hills and valleys up north. Two of them, Phil and Dom, will definitely not make it the rest of the way from sheer exhaustion or sore muscles. Luke and Hutch decide to take them through the woods for a short cut. This will cut down the travel time and get their friends some place to rest. Who cares if they have no idea what might be waiting in the woods? They're adventuring!
You can see how this is a perfect set up for something that can go horribly wrong. I can tell you without spoiling anything that they do not get into the forest and find gumdrops and rainbows waiting for them. It's pretty clear that they're not alone.
Nevill has a talent when it comes to detail. He's able to describe what these characters are going through with specifics that just amplifies the terror. I can see myself right there with them and it makes the book so much scarier. The group stumbles upon a carcass hanging in the trees. From the way that the author puts it, the body is hung in an almost ritualistic manner. The boys can't figure out what kind of creature would be able to completely eviscerate what they hope is an animal and throw it up in the branches like that.
The Ritual is sort of like two books in one. It's broken up into two parts that are very different in tone. The first half, "Beneath the Remains" centers around Hutch, Luke, Dom, and Phil as they slowly make their way through the woods and struggle to figure out what might be lurking around them at any given moment. I don't want to reveal too much about the second part of the book, titled "South of Heaven", but it reminds me of a supernatural take on a popular Stephen King book featuring an author and his number one fan. This section of the book felt very repetitive. Nevill continuously hammers home the sense of despair that the character is in. It's easy to figure out that this is a shitty situation for anyone but to hear it over and over again gets old fast.
The Ritual is hit and miss. Beneath the Remains is a terror-filled reminder of why I never want to go someplace without a cellphone signal. It's also a fantastic look into the mind of a man that's desperately trying to come to grips with the fact that there might be an ages-old, bloodthirsty monster hunting him. The transition to South of Heaven felt like a misstep and lost a lot of the momentum that was built up over the first half of the book. It ultimately fell flat which is disappointing considering the great opening.
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