The astute amongst you will have noticed that I haven’t got round to reviewing the final instalment of Gary’s excellent Concrete Grove trilogy. The reason for this is a simple one, I just can’t bring myself to draw a line under what is in my opinion the best horror series published in the last 10 years.
So until I can come to terms with the fact that this series has ended we’ll not mention that elephant in the room. Which brings us to Nightsiders, which is Gary’s début publication with the purveyors of top class horror, Darkfuse.
Like the best of Gary’s work, this novella worms its way under your skin, where crawls through your mind and body and sits there attached to base of your skull sending a chilling shiver down your spine.
The plot of Nightsiders, is a very simple one, Londoner Robert Mitchell has had enough of life in the capital city, the final straw coming from an shocking incident that happened to his wife. So they buy dream house in the country and hope that this move will repair their fractured lives. However, they find that this picture perfect life has been tainted with the vile prehistoric daubing of the Corbeau family. What follows is another prime example of why Gary McMahon is oen of the best horror writers working to day.
Yes the plot is at first glance your typical home invasion narrative, and for the majority of the story it does read like one. Until Gary pulls back the curtains, and then rips the rug from underneath us, taking this story to an altogether more fantastical place.
Where excels over the vast majority of horror authors is his characters. The players that inhabit Gary’s work a vital part of the story. These aren’t blank ciphers whose sole purpose is to carry the narrative from start to finish. When you read Gary’s stories you feel as though you really are reading the characters story. There is an almost warts and all documentary feel to the his work.
Another strength of Gary’s writing is the fact the a lot of horror comes not from the supernatural, but from the real life horror of the stories protagonists. Nightsiders is a prime example of this. The insiduous way in which the truth about what happened in London is handled perfectly, with the horror coming from both what happened, and how emasculated and weak Robert now feels. The tension bewtween Robert and his wife in the aftermath of the incident is so tanggible, you could pluck it like a heart string.
A great home invasion story wouldn’t be complete without a great villian, and with the Corbeau’s Gary has created a splendid over the top set of villians. These are the vilest people imaginable. They have no morals, no sense of right and wrong, only a sense of what’s mine is mine, even if it is not mine. These are the people you have have nightmares about, the people with whom reason is word they don’t understand, the people who can only be dealt with by a fight fire with fire approach. These are the sort of people that causes me to sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed, and shotgun in the attic.
There is a point in the story where Nathan Corbeau gives a fabulous speech where he describes who and why they are what they are. This speech is so well written it reminded me of the brilliant speech in Kerouac’s On The Road
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
Sitting here in snowbound Penicuik, this latest offering from Michael McBride, seems like the perfect story to pass a chilly morning. Set in the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, this fast paced killer action based horror is the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Using a well worn premise of a group of friends, who despite growing apart over the years, still come together out of a sense of duty and sentimentality, it may seem that this novella is going to tread the same well worn tracks of a hundred stories before it. Hold on folks, Snowblind takes this premise, and takes the reader far off the beaten track and straight into an undiscovered valley of terror.
McBride has made a wise decision to keep this story at a novella length, by doing so he maintains level of tension, paranoia, and fear, far above what could be achieved in longer form. He drops the readers straight into the action, and when the blizzard sets in and isolates our protagonists, you the reader will also become isolated from the rest of the world while you read this book.
Keeping the back story of the characters to a bare minimum was also a wise move as it focus the narrative into the here and now, which adds to the overall tension of the book. However, the biggest master stroke of this excellent novella, is the age old trick of hint and don’t show. McBride, keeps the readers guessing as to what exactly is hunting our hunters right up until the very end of the story, remember watching Alien for the first time, and do you remember the feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when the monster was finally revealed, it was a great feeling wasn’t it?
Despite a couple of events that push the boundaries of creditability, this is a very good read, and one that I highly recommend you read.