Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

The Ritual by Adam Nevill
Macmillian, May 2011
Genre: Horror

From the Back of the Book:

And on the third day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition.
When four old University friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But when Luke, the only man still single and living a precarious existence, finds he has little left in common with his well-heeled friends, tensions rise.
With limited fitness and experience between them, a shortcut meant to ease their hike turns into a nightmare scenario that could cost them their lives. Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn’t possibly get any worse.
But then they stumble across an old habitation. Ancient artefacts decorate the walls and there are bones scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. And as the four friends stagger in the direction of salvation, they learn that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees . . .

My Thoughts:
I don't read much horror but I was excited for this book because I won it from one of the monthly giveaways for the Speculative Fiction Challenge. I read The Ritual in one sitting. The first half of the book was, for me, everything a horror story should be. It was suspenseful, chilling and scary.  The unseen monster in the woods was made real enough that I wouldn't want to go hiking for a while.  If you had asked me at that point I'd have said that I'd be sleeping with my light on that night.

Once the point of view character is brought out of the woods, the fear and suspense that maintained the atmosphere of the book faded away into shocky confusion.  The point of view character is injured and week and under the control of people serving the monster that chased him and his friends through the woods but he still feels safer inside than in the woods.  The narrator relaxes into confusion and a drug induced haze. And if the narrator isn't as scared neither am I as the reader.

I think that The Ritual suffered for the author's need to explain what happened.  I was much happier with the mysterious entity in the dark and being left wondering whether the narrator died or made it out to safety.  However, the ending did allow for a more complete character arc and a more pronounced transformation in the  narrator.  It also gave the time and space for the comforting realization that the scary thing in the dark can be killed.  Those facts didn't redeem the ending for me but they did damp some of the disappointment.

I really enjoyed the first half of The Ritual.  If that's all there was to the book, I could whole heartedly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed horror but for me the lack of clarity in the second half didn't work and it took away from my appreciation of the first half.  For me as Horror this book failed: I went to sleep in my fully dark room and I fell asleep just fine.

Written as Part of the Speculative Fiction Challenge

Other August Reviews from the Speculative Fiction Challenge

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