Having previously read “Drive” by Mark West, I jumped at the chance to read his horror novella, “The Factory”. Although his previous thriller wasn’t to my taste, I was impressed enough by the writing to want to read a horror offering from this author. And four friends exploring an abandoned factory with fatal consequences sounded just my kind of thing. It started well, introducing us immediately to the creepy building which gives the book its title. The first chapter sees Tom venturing in alone and meeting an untimely fate, which is the catalyst to bring the other characters back together for the rest of the book. West built up the atmosphere brilliantly, although I did feel he showed us the monster too early; I would have preferred a bit more left to the imagination, although that is personal preference and others might like to get straight into the supernatural. Tom’s final quandary of concrete versus canal was beautifully, darkly written and possibly my favourite part of the book.
After that, the tension is taken down a gear as we meet the four remaining friends of the GLUE club (standing for the Gaffney Legendary Urban Explorers). For me, this was the weakest part of the novella. West takes too long to get his characters together which is a shame because the chemistry between them once they enter the factory is a good driving force within the book. That said, each character is well-drawn and believable, so it didn’t hinder my enjoyment too much and I was still keen to keep reading.
“Drive” was tense and fast paced from the beginning; “The Factory’ has a much slower build and it is chapter 7 before the book’s namesake makes another appearance. But once it does, the horror certainly ramps up again. As the characters explore and inevitably get separated, the reader gets drawn deeper into their plight. There is one death in particular, involving water, which will stay with me for a long time.
It’s to West’s credit that he manages to describe the same setting without it sounding repetitive. The author told me that the outside of factory is based on a real place, and I think that leads to some very vivid description as a result. The inside might be made up, but West manages to make its dark and confusing nature comprehensible to the reader, no easy task.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints. As a personal preference, I feel it would have been tighter limiting it to just one or two viewpoints. However, given that the characters ultimately get separated, multiple viewpoints was really the only feasible option. Although this meant it took a little longer for the book to get going, it certainly meant that I sympathised with the characters and invested in their fates.
This is a creepy little tale which, the initial slow start aside, has some good pacing and believable characters. I look forward to reading longer pieces of this author’s work.