After having finished reading Adam Nevill’s Last Days, I can safely say it is the stronger the novel between it and The Ritual. Much in Last Days worked extremely well, including the plotting. Like The Ritual, however, Last Days does take a slight left-turn toward the end, but that turn is not as jolting as in The Ritual.
Nevill finely crafts and deftly describes the supernatural elements in Last Days with such detail as to make the dead come to life. It owes much to Lovecraft in that something is coming or is being summoned from “the other side” or some ghostly realm. The novel could have benefitted from Sister Katherine being more present as a character, in some way, rather than a character realized by others’ descriptions of her. I believe there are some deeper narrative possibilities there. Her ultimate fate, while interesting, lacks imperative. Yes, the main protagonists have to accomplish their mission in a timely fashion, but I would have welcomed a final showdown in some way.
Nevill takes a huge gamble in telling the story through the lens of a documentary filmmaker exploring the mysteries of this mysterious cult. In some ways, it’s like trying to tell a found-footage story with nothing but prose. What Kyle’s camera lens captures is both surreal and also distancing. However, unlike such found-footage films where one has difficulty buying into the premise when circumstances dictate any rational person to throw down the camera and run, Last Days does not fall victim to the need for such suspension of disbelief.
Quite a bit befalls the characters, but then again, subject interviews and their recollections reveal the majority of the story. Can we trust these sources? That’s for you to decide.
My only major complaint, which is not necessarily a condemnation, is with regard to the novel’s ending, which has a distinctive The Ring-style conclusion. Given the ending, I wondered if a short story or novella might not have been a better vehicle for the telling of this narrative. Then again, there is an open-endedness that begs for a sequel—one I would surely welcome.
Update: I am still currently reading Dan Simmons’ The Terror, which is not disappointing in the least at roughly two-thirds of the way through. I also started reading C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man. This short novel grabs hold and will not let go. Though, so far, merely a thriller, the novel has the basic ingredients of King’s It, having children confronting an evil both as children and later as adults. But the novel is more economical in its word count. It unfolds in a way that allows the reader to bond with the characters—the strength of King’s novel is in those characters’ relationships. Tudor’s approach focuses more on story and plotting. The characterization is there (although I found myself wanting to know one of the characters a little better), but the story does not linger at the bell. Tudor brings the novel out swinging and connecting at all the right beats. I’ll follow up when I’m finished and let you know if she was able to follow through successfully.