Hasty for the Dark, by Adam Nevill, a review
It was with great pleasure that I received a review copy of Adam Nevill’s latest release - “Hasty For the Dark”.
The collection is dominated by feelings of isolation in crowded environments, and dreams and psychosis as messages from other realms. It is a strange read and might not be to everyone’s taste. In places it has an old-fashioned feel, that admirers of Poe and Lovecraft are bound to appreciate. At other times we are faced with futuristic desolation. There is little happiness to be found in these narratives, but they remain strangely consoling to troubled minds.
The first story is called “On All London Underground Lines”. It’s a chillingly descriptive piece that brings home the inhumanity of an overcrowded metro station. Having “enjoyed” delays and cancellations on a long rail trip this past weekend, I found myself reliving that experience while reading the frustrated thoughts of the narrator. Maybe it needs a trigger warning.
“The Angels of London” feels like it was a collaboration between Lovecraft and Irvine Welsh, based in a London hovel with a terrifying landlord. It’s full of luscious descriptions like “yolk-eyed drunk”.
“Always in Our Hearts” is a short story about a taxi driver with a guilty conscience. Nevill writes philosophically about the human ability to forgive oneself. “The ability to forget was a kind of advance braking system of the mind. The effectiveness of his own mental ABS surprised him.”
“Eumenides” - Themes of claustrophobia and powerlessness continue in this short story. The title “Hasty for the Dark” may reflect a desire to escape the desperate and lonely monotonous trap of failing at life that threads its way throughout these tales.
“The Days of Our Lives” Oh my god! This gave me chills. A terrifying and powerful story that I find hard to describe. Time, memories and murder revolve around a group called The Movement who are dedicated to the words of a poet who went mad. My favourite story so far.
“Hippocampus” The first paragraph is poetry. When people dismiss horror as irrelevant and without substance they ignore writers like Adam Nevill. Just feast your eyes on this - “Walls of water as slow as lava, black as coal, push the freighter up mountainsides, over frothing peaks and into plunging descents. Across vast, rolling waves the vessel ploughs, ungainly. Conjuring galaxies
of bubbles around its passage and in its wake, temporary cosmoses appear for moments in the immensity of onyx water, forged then sucked beneath the hull, or are sacrificed, fizzing, to the freezing night air.” It’s a descriptive piece of the aftermath of some massacre that asks more questions than it answers. It’s both shocking and strangely beautiful.
By the time I reached half way through the collection my heart was pounding. I felt Nevill’s desolate suffering too acutely to immediately continue. Even though it was already a book I wanted every horror lover to read. In order that I might survive the journey and do the book justice I needed to break from it for a while. I returned to it after seven days, refreshed and ready, or so I thought.
Call the Name is a Lovecraftian tale for a new generation. Cleo may be old and suffering from dementia, but she knows what’s coming even though few believe her.
White Light, White Heat, in the beginning the reader imagines Adam Nevill taking on Amazon with their 10p books and 98% market share. This brilliant touch made me laugh out loud. Only one thing gives the narrator of this story any pleasure and that is an intense euphoria gifted by a holy light in a box. Everything else is dull, depressing, over-crowded and filthy. It is only when he has lost everything that he is struck by a great epiphany and while his teachings are widely misinterpreted at least the things around him begin to change. “White Light, White Heat” is an exceptionally brutal and intelligent story.
Little Black Lamb, a remarkable story about an older couple who discover something within themselves that neither find remotely comfortable. It was undertones of ritual murder but there are few graphic descriptions for the reader to truly understand what is going on. The perfect ending to a bizarre and somewhat troubling collection of stories.
In the author’s own words - “Enigma is vital to horror, but I never fail to be surprised at how many readers of horror find no value in this quality.”
The stories are all enigmas and I love how hard my mind has to work to appreciate them.