Ginger Nuts of Horror
Adam Nevill is one if the finest writers of our generation, in the space of just seven novels he has grown, developed his craft, and pushed the boundaries of what many consider to be horror. His novels are never a comfortable read, they force the reader into dark corners of their own minds where the unease that they feel comes not just from the supernatural horrors that are inflicted on his characters, but from the dark depths of human depravity. They force us to look at ourselves and wonder "what would we do in that situation?" Would we be as passive and as unresponsive as Stephanie is initially acts in No One Gets Out Alive, would we blindly continue on our obsessive path as Kyle does in Last Days, or would we throw everything away in our frantic search for a lost child as the protagonist in Lost Girl...
In many ways Lost Girl is a continuation of No One Gets Out Alive, in that the horror we are subjected to seeps not from some supernatural source, but from the actions of man itself. The world is on the brink of disaster. Humanity has outstayed its welcome and mother nature is wrecking havoc on us. The temperature is rising, drought is rampant, causing the world's food crops to fail. Governments are collapsing from civil unrest and the mass migration of refugees from countries who have already collapsed. Disease is rampant with new strains of killer bacteria and viruses reaching pandemic proportions. There are still a few good men and women trying to fight the rising tide of chaos, but funds and resources are tight, and the ever tightening death grip of criminal gangs is slowly squeezing them life out of them. So when a child is stolen from a loving father he has no choice but to take things into his own hands.
While Lost Girl has many similar themes and tropes common to Adam's previous novels, it utilises them in grander way. Where his previous novels have all shared a more personal and claustrophobic tale of horror, Lost Girl expands these themes to paint a depressing, and sadly all too real, picture of a future that is just around the corner for our planet.
The amount of research that has gone into this novel is staggering, however Adam doesn't just present the possible future as a series of dull lectures. Most of the information comes in the form of news broadcasts. And the way in which the father processes and mulls over them. They act as both a means to build the picture of a dying world, and as break in story of the Father. They are a highly effective in the way in which they make the quest to find the missing daughter even more frantic and desperate. But don't worry they never become preachy, this isn't a novel that has an green agenda for want of a better term. They are presented as a cold hard future that could face us all, and for that they are even more chilling in the stark reality of what is happening in the world today.
But this is the story of The Father, for that is the only name by which we know him. His backstory, character and personality are never fully explored, which may sound odd, but in the context of this story it is a clever move by Nevill. By reducing his character to just a term, the protagonist becomes more of an avatar that we the reader can clothe in our own feelings. He becomes a force of nature whose anger and desperation mirrors that of mother earth. This isn't really his story, Lost Girl is more about the lengths a man will go to recover his lost daughter, and the ramifications of his blind unrelenting quest. Redemption and solace are not what he is after, he is only concerned with recovering his daughter and making anyone who he perceives had a part in it pays for their crimes.
The result of this is he does some truly terrible things and as his quest unfolds he becomes almost as vile and evil as those he is after. There are far ranging consequences to what he does, some of which in the final stages of the book are genuinely shocking, and have that heart numbing effect on you that only the best of horror fiction has. When the masks of those that help The father are removed and we see them for the real people that they are, and the fate that awaits them you cannot help but be shocked.
The Father, despite his plight is a hard character to properly empathise with. His dogged determination is almost too consuming for us to be completely on his side. We see the consequences of his actions before he does, for example the almost total disregard for his wife, really cuts to the bone. However this is probably the point of his character. Readers don't need to need to be sympathetic towards a character for them to become invested in them, and for the whole length of this story you are completely invested in his plight.
This is a horrific read, the supernatural elements appear more in True Detective manner where ambiguity reigns supreme. Things are hinted at, lurking at the periphery of sight, dark shapes swirl in the night and haunt The Father. The true horror of The Lost Girl comes from horror of this possible future.
The picture that Nevill paints of massive gangs running the country is an all too believable one. The mystique created around the gang King Death is so rich and detailed they transform into a folklore horror bogeyman. Their leader Oleg is a ravaged and diseased prophet of death a psychotic shaman whose trips into the other realm have turned him into a crazy killer devoid of everything that separates us from the animals. And yet you cannot help but feel his pain at what he learns when he first encounters The Father. It is the sign of great writer when a being of pure evil can still bring a tear to your eye and find redemption by the end of the book.
Adam isn't known for his happy endings, and the ending of this novel is beautiful in it's simplicity. When the realization of the true outcome and destiny of those that make it to the end is one the starkest and chilling endings in recent memory.
Lost Girl is a brutally powerful novel, it forces us to look both inwards at ourselves, to wonder if we would go to the same lengths, and one that forces us to look at the world we live in, can we halt the downward decline of our world or will we face a slow and inevitable decline into oblivion. The Future presented in Lost Girl may be a bleak one, but the future of Horror with writers such as Nevill at the helm is a bright future for all.
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