Hello and welcome to another blog post featuring one of my favourite subjects: a disturbing, well written horror novel!
Today’s book is The Reddening, the ninth novel from award winning horror author Adam L.G Nevill. An author who has said to be Britain’s answer to Stephen King, that is a statement I kind of find antiquated, simply because by now Nevill’s catalogue alone should recognize him incomparable to any other living writer, nobody does folk horror better than him.
That is something he proves with his ninth book, a book I will claim is his best novel yet!
So, what is so great about this novel? well, let’s start with the haunting cover, its reminiscent of something you would find on a Palaeolithic cave wall right before being slaughtered by some eldritch horror. Truth be told, I have a degree in archaeology with 10 years’ experience in the field, and if I came across something like that on a cave wall (that have not been seen for tens of thousands years), I would seal up the cave and go “nope, nothing to see here!” and never utter a word again of what I saw.
As for the story itself, here is the blurb:
Look at this beautiful, haunting cover
One million years of evolution didn't change our nature. Nor did it bury the horrors predating civilisation. Ancient rites, old deities and savage ways can reappear in the places you least expect.
Lifestyle journalist Katrine escaped past traumas by moving to a coast renowned for seaside holidays and natural beauty. But when a vast hoard of human remains and prehistoric artefacts is discovered in nearby Brickburgh, a hideous shadow engulfs her life.
Helene, a disillusioned lone parent, lost her brother, Lincoln, six years ago. Disturbing subterranean noises he recorded prior to vanishing, draw her to Brickburgh's caves. A site where early humans butchered each other across sixty thousand years. Upon the walls, images of their nameless gods remain.
Amidst rumours of drug plantations and new sightings of the mythical red folk, it also appears that the inquisitive have been disappearing from this remote part of the world for years. A rural idyll where outsiders are unwelcome and where an infernal power is believed to linger beneath the earth. A timeless supernormal influence that only the desperate would dream of confronting. But to save themselves and those they love, and to thwart a crimson tide of pitiless barbarity, Kat and Helene are given no choice. They were involved and condemned before they knew it.
Might be a bit spoilery from now onwards, let me just say that this is one hell of a disturbing novel that has a cinematic feel to it. So, if you want a pristine reading of the book, then stop wasting your time! Go buy the book and read it!! It is worth it!!! (Too many exclamation marks? I don’t think so!!!!)
Anyway, the story dives straight into the fray, with a man lost whilst hiking in Devon, he stumbles across a house with a couple sitting by a table covered from head to toe in red, and that is the last that is seen of him. Later a paraglider comes across a cave that have been unearthed by a landslide, in the cave there is bones and tools stemming from the stone age.
This book mainly follows from the perspective of the two main characters, Kat and Helene, both great fully fleshed characters that are stronger than they think. The two women, whose lives have been affected by the discovery of the cave in different ways, and they are both struggling with their own issues, Kat is thrust into this situation through her work as a journalist and Helene is haunted by her brothers apparent suicide, and their paths cross when they both try and discover the truth of the caves.
Besides Kat and Helene, the book is intersected with chapters following supporting characters, suffice to say that most of them will not last long, mainly because of the books antagonists known as the red people, the naked maniacs, covered in red, wielding stone hand axes and piping bone flutes to accompany their slaughter (the bone flutes are most likely made from some unsuspecting hiker). Truth be told, the red people are truly terrifying, from their choice of weapons and instruments and their aversion to clothes and love for red paint, to their silent unrelenting gazes and the entity that they worship, Creel and her white pups, the prehistoric hyena god and her spawn (sounds cute, really isn’t).
Nevill builds a truly terrifying and believable story, from rendering the coast of Devon to such a degree that you almost feel the soggy ground the characters are walking on, to the cinematic feel of the attacks and butchering performed by the red people.
The storytelling here is done in a way that makes you guess what is really true, is it a mundane (as in non-supernatural) story or is it a supernatural story. I kept guessing the whole time I was reading the book, whether or not it was preternatural, let me just say, the end blew me away!
What really makes this book so immersive is how well-researched this book is, rarely do I see writers use correct terms in regards to archaeology, especially when it comes to time periods and technology. And also, the small details of the hobbies of the various characters, from recording underground sounds to paragliding, it all helps set the scene and makes it all seem so much more realistic!
As I am a proud metalhead, I really appreciated the creation of a fictitious legendary 70s band, Witchfinder Apprentice which has its own history and myth. The details were so believable that I had to google the band name just to make sure it wasn’t real and was kind of relieved/disappointed that it didn’t exist!
With The Reddening, Nevill has done to Devon what urine has done too public pools, namely made me not wanting to go there! Even though this book is fiction, I believe there is a kernel of truth in any fictional story, so, better to be safe than butchered by red maniacs on the Devon cliffs. But somebody, please pick this up as a movie or a miniseries, and hold nothing back! Let the red people roam free in all their naked red menace and glory!
In the end, for the love of Creel and her white pups, go and buy this book and read it!