by Adam Nevill
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had high hopes for this book. The concept sounded really interesting. From the start, I just didn’t like any of the characters. The book felt like it dragged on longer than it should have. After a while the tension the characters felt just sort of lost its edge and I honestly started feeling a little bit bored. It did not help that the writing felt a bit dry. The parts I liked most about the book, the internal conflict and development, didn’t really have anything to do with the horror aspect of things. Sadly though the characters just never became likable to me so even the parts liked got old pretty quickly.
Full Review with Spoilers
The premise of this book seemed so good. I was looking forward to seeing exactly what the four main characters went through trying to survive being lost in the woods. The idea of people being stuck in a situation where they are forced to realize they may no know each other or themselves as well as they should sounded great. I love character development, especially with a minimal cast. Sadly though I just could not find reason to like anyone in this book. I instantly took a dislike to the two more active and fit characters Hutch and Luke constantly whispering about how “the fatties can’t make it.” Everything about the stories of all of these people sounded like ways to blame women and married life for their happiness and health going south after college. Dom and Phil are unhappy people that spend the whole time they are alive trying to make sure everyone is unhappy. It got very old very fast. I genuinely did like the parts where everyone finally opened up and started talking about things. Like why Luke seemed to be the butt of jokes and left out (because they envied his bachelor life despite them all telling them he’s a loser who won’t grow up), and the fact the both Dom and fill are actually getting divorced because their wives are terrible. I liked the best buds finally talking things out, but again, the characters where still awful people so I really had no sympathy for them.
The plot in this book felt like the author had trouble figuring out exactly what story he was trying to tell. It shifts completely halfway through. The first half of the book is a survival horror. The four friends get lost, they see some very scary and uncomfortable things in the woods that suggest pagan type sacrifices and such. Things they don’t understand but make them uneasy. Then they are being followed by something that starts picking them off and genuinely tormenting them. This wasn’t a bad set up and I liked that realistically you really don’t know if there really is a demonic type creature following or not. Once again though I didn’t like the characters so I didn’t feel that fear for them. The writing was also a bit flat and had a tendency to drag on about random things here and there which kind of killed the tense vibe for me.
At the halfway point, everyone but the main protagonist Luke has been picked off and Luke himself wakes up battered, bruised, and starved in an old house deep in the woods. This is where the book takes a nose dive for me. Luke is being held captive by the teenage(?) members of a black metal band who have been taking things way too far. Luke learns that they have killed priests and burned churches and such in the name of evil and black metal etc etc. It was cringy and introduced more characters I didn’t care for. At this point I just couldn’t take the book seriously anymore. The band members are shacking up in an old woman’s house because they know there’s some sort of old god in the woods they want to call on. At this pint I’m still not completely sure the supernatural aspect of things is real or in Luke’s head. He’s finally presented with ancient nearly mummified bodies that are still animate, he discovers the old woman isn’t completely human and he gets chased through the woods by the creature. There’s no denying that it’s all real, but it lacked any really excitement. I was still bored in this point in the story and a chase though the woods didn’t save it.
The book also seems to promote a less than subtle messages about evil women who make men suffer. There’s hardly anything nice said about any woman in this book and even the creature killing in the woods turns out to be female. I tried not to let this influence my feeling on the plot, but calling it “less than subtle” almost feels like and understatement.
This was a book that had potential but suffered from lack luster writing, terrible characters, sexist undertones, and an extremely unfocused plot. The best parts of the story are short lived and overshadowed and just couldn’t save it.
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