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3.9 out of 5 stars178
3.9 out of 5 stars
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A group of four old friends (all men), who first met during their university days, go hiking in the Scandinavian wilderness. Two of them have not prepared for the challenging hike and are soon in physical difficulties. Life has moved on for all of them with wives, kids and careers. They decide to take a short-cut through a forbidding forest, and unsurprisingly, they get hopelessly lost. The first half of the book had me thinking of it's likenesses with Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. In the fashion of Hansel and Gretel, they stumble across a creepy old house, which they think will be their salvation from the hostile elements, but which actually harbours a terrible ancient secret. Lurking in the forest outside is something very skilled in the art of hunting (much like the unseen predator in the equally brilliant The Terror by Dan Simmons). The second half of the book is about the battle for survival between the four men and the ancient entity outside which wants to prey on them. The four characters, by and large, are likeable, and as you get to know them, you feel increasingly engrossed in their worsening situation. The author very skilfully uses a lot of daunting and menacing imagery, and he deploys some very vivid nightmare sequences, which add to the sense of pending catastrophe for the lads. The pace of the book is rapid, and the descriptive passages about the wilderness are excellent. What adds significantly to the strength of the book, is that the author keeps you constantly guessing about what will happen to the men, it is never predictable. Just like The Terror by Dan Simmons (which I review elsewhere), this gem of a novel takes the rider on a seriously scarey rollercoaster ride.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2011
I bought this on the strength of Adam Nevill's previous novel `Apartment 16', which I found extremely disturbing, and a great horror read. I wasn't disappointed with `The Ritual'.

The book is in two parts. In the first part 4 friends hiking in the Swedish wilderness get hopelessly lost. The sense of menace as they trudge through the damp, densely forested landscape is almost palpable. With a rising sense of panic amongst the four men it seems the harder they try to get out of the forest, the more it wants to keep them there. It made me want to keep looking over my shoulder so I ended up only reading the book in the daytime! What they find along the way and the events that follow set the scene for the second part of the book, which is equally menacing and edge of the seat reading.

Adam Nevill has a way of drawing the reader into the story and assaulting their senses with such vivid and disturbing imagery - what's not to like?!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2012
I've read the book and also read some negative reviews.
As someone who ventures frequently in the mountains I could totally identify with the characters and how they must felt. Nevill does a good job giving the feeling of the dense forest, the isolation of the place and the helplessness of been so far away from civilization and help.
The book is a journey, and as such it must be seen. It is not an action book, and if someone anticipates something like that, then this is not the book for him. Someone mentioned a long ending, but it's all part of the story, part of the journey. Cutting short would spoil the adventure and all the previous chapters spent describing the hell the four guys went through.
Were they unprepared? Yes, they were, but you know, this happens in real life. Many times I had with me people in the mountains that would be unfit, but took them with me just because they were so excited about it. This is life. You cannot exclude a friend from an activity - right or wrong, this is a reality.
For me, Nevill's book was a great reading, and kept me company for many nights. I didn't want it to end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2011
So pleased I stumbled across The Ritual! I struggle to find horror writers that are as chilling as Mo Hayder but I've finally found one in Adam Nevill. I recommend reading late at night for maximum effect - I'm not easily scared but The Ritual had me listening out for a creak or bump in the middle of the night. Or was it a hoof?.... Am looking forward to getting my hands on his first two books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2014
"And on the third day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition.”

I have always been a fan of Adam Neville since the Banquet of the Dammed and believe he is firmly as the forefront of the British horror revival of recent years which this gripping and disturbing novel confirms.

Four old university friends go on a walking holiday in the wildness of sub-Arctic Sweden. However they are not the men they were once, mentally and physically, people change over time and soon tensions rise between the characters. When it is clear that, due to their lack of fitness, two of the party cannot continue, a shortcut rather than the intended route, invariably , proves a disaster.

Hungry, thirsty and injured they struggle through one of the last great, ancient forests in Europe. Things couldn’t get any worse…but they do… much worse.
As they make their way, hopelessly lost, through the forest it becomes clear that they are being hunted by some primordial beast/being that begins to pick them off one by one……

If ever there was a book of two halves this is it… the first half is breathless, panicky and shot though incredulity. The second section…is drawn out and painful with the one surviving character almost resigned to his fate.

This is superb storytelling. It is atmospheric and imaginative with a compulsive writing style that keeps the reader turning those pages although feeling exhausted by the horror and despair experienced by the four friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2011
And on the third day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition. When four old University friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But when Luke, the only man still single and living a precarious existence, finds he has little left in common with his well-heeled friends, tensions rise. With limited fitness and experience between them, a shortcut meant to ease their hike turns into a nightmare scenario that could cost them their lives. Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn't possibly get any worse. But then they stumble across an old habitation. Ancient artefacts decorate the walls and there are bones scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. And as the four friends stagger in the direction of salvation, they learn that death doesn't come easy among these ancient trees . . .

This is the 1st book i have read by this author - its classed as a horror and it does trully get your blood pumping, make your heart beat faster and rush to turn the page to see what happens next. It does describe things in great detail so you get a sense of the place, the conditions and you can almost feel ,see and hear things for yourself. Its alittle gruesome at times but it wouldnt be a horror otherwise! I wanted to read more and was feeding off the descriptions HOWEVER i was alittle disappointed when the ending few chapters revealed what was really going on. I kind of groaned alittle and thought well this is what makes modern horror and infact horror movies. I do definately wish to read more books by this author though 8/10 for me
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2011
Oh! How I love a good horror story. But in my humble opinion and limited experience, they are rare. When I reviewed Adam Nevill's Apartment 16 last year, I told that I was looking forward to the author's next book. Today I'm glad because he won't disappoint his readers with his last book. Nevill comes back with even a greater horror story in The Ritual.

The story starts with four old university friends going on a camping trip together. Having lived their lives their way since leaving the university, some see the trip as a bonding session, some see it as an escape from their day-to-day life. The crucial detail is that the trip is in Scandinavian wilderness. Life has treated them differently and being together once again doesn't go without its tension. But their story grows its real thorns when they decide to take a shortcut and they get lost.

At this point I can almost hear your thoughts. This or very similar stories have been told before. But believe me, never like this. Nevill's characters are so well developed that the reader finds herself in the midst of a quicksand of horror, slowly sinking deeper as the pages turn themselves. Hutch is the cement of the group. He is a level-headed, nice guy who is loved and respected by the other three. He assumes the leadership naturally. Luke is the wild spirit who hasn't had a career and a stable life since leaving college. And he doesn't get along well with Dom and Phil, who have a good career and a family life. Nevill develops their characters skillfully throughout the story.

One of the things I like about Nevill's stories is that the author doesn't rely on gore to scare his readers. I may be old-school but gore has never impressed me. I value horror when it shapes itself in the reader's mind, tickling primitive, evolutionary, well-hidden fear buds. Nevill's stories are like that. The reader is ensnarled in their slowly growing tentacles, holding her in place, while she is incapable of separating herself from the book.

In The Ritual, the reader finds herself right in the middle of a distressing situation from the very beginning. The first pages clearly announce what is to come. The setting alone is disturbing. The author leaves the urban environment of his previous books to bring the reader in the untouched parts of the Scandinavian forests. With the author's fluent style and his masterful descriptions, the black forest becomes the perfect horror setting.

Adam Nevill raises the bar higher with The Ritual. When great setting, memorable characters and beautiful prose come together one can happily sit back and enjoy the incredible ride. I would buy Nevill's next book without even reading its blurb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2011
I cannot deny it, I love Adam Nevill's work. BANQUET FOR THE DAMNED went straight into my Top Ten Best Books of All Time. APARTMENT 16, whilst more difficult to get into than BANQUET is easily streets ahead of so many other wannabe horror writers. At one point during my reading of A16, I had to get up to make sure the front and back doors were locked. I bought a copy of BANQUET for my mother and she had to put it down halfway through because it gave her nightmares. In short, Adam has a unique ability to make you wonder if its safe to turn the page.

And THE RITUAL maintains this excellent ability.

With a simpler, more recognisable plot that its predecessors, THE RITUAL is by far the easiest of the 3 to get into. I picked it up after going through a month of not reading. I'd been unable to focus on anything for more than just a few pages and began to wonder if I was ever going to complete a book again before THE RITUAL put me straight. With images straight from Dennis Wheatley, Deliverance, Hammer Horror and Southern Comfort, this is a book that never lets up. It is claustrophobic to the extreme. His protagonists are out in the open, lost if a Scandinavian forest and yet it feels like they're mice trapped inside a maze on a laboratory desk. Their very existence soon becomes futile. When they're picked off one-by-one, I feel no shame in admitting that I actually jumped when victim number two was despatched.

THE RITUAL is actually two books in one. The first half is desolation, despair and an immense lack of hope due to claustrophobia and their being played with by an unseen creature (which is a masterstroke in my opinion); the second half has the same qualities only the claustrophobia is replaced by devil worship and death metal. As an expert in heavy rock and metal, Adam is more than qualified to discuss the matter and the beliefs expressed towards groups such as Cradle of Filth are both fascinating and hilarious.

Scarier than A16 and more amenable to Adam virgins than BANQUET, THE RITUAL is a superb novel from a man who must have both the spirits of MR James and Jimmy Sangster nestling in his soul
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2011
After reading Apartment 16 and enjoying it greatly, I picked up The Ritual.
The story follows four friends, who decide that a hiking trip is a good way to get reacquainted after marriages, jobs, and 30-something life has taken over. As you can imagine their trip doesn't go according to plan. A decision to take a short cut sets in motion a series of, shall we say, not altogether pleasant events.

Each of the main characters are believably written. The language they use, and the camaraderie they have are very blokey, and at times very funny. The protagonists range from the likable everyman to the slightly unhinged, arms length type of guy.
Having a relatively small cast of characters works well as you get a good sense of their backstory without it seeming contrived. The reader isn't forced to get to know the characters in the first chapter, you're lead with them through the story, and you discover more about them as it progresses.

While the lost in the woods story has been told many times before, it should be noted that it's probably for a good reason. Everyone can remember a creepy camping trip, or a walk in the woods when they were kids. The Ritual's choking forest is as much a character as anyone else, not to mention "it".

The Ritual is not a feel good novel. It is a dark, gloomy novel, it gets under your skin, makes you claustrophobic and cold. The first part of the book is a spooky, sleep with the lights on affair. Nevill's descriptions of smells, ramshackle buildings or of course corpses, paints a very vivid picture indeed.
The gore is there and when it comes it is visceral, torturous, and of course graphic. However it is never gore for gore's sake.
The second part of the novel has some stand out moments that can't be spoiled by this review. It's fair to say that this part is a change of pace, albeit a welcome one. The story gathers a great momentum from here and leaves you satisfied by the final page.
So, a novel of two halves that compliment each other very well.

Whether you're a spook, or gore lover I heartily recommend this book, you will not be left wanting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2011
The Ritual, by Adam Nevill, is a disquieting tale of rural horror.

A group of blokes are trying to recover the lost magic of their friendship with a good old-fashioned camping trip in the wilds of Sweden. Luke, Phil, Dom and Hutch used to live together in Birmingham. Since then, they've gone their separate ways. Luke, the protagonist, has turned into the John Cusack character from High Fidelity - a slightly too-cool-for-school noncommittal type, just becoming aware of his immaturity. The others have all grown up, but in some cases, they've gone a bit too far.

Initially, The Ritual is wonderfully, radiantly eerie. The untamed wilderness dominates the book's atmosphere. The men, overwhelmed by their surroundings, turn insular. They bicker, they squabble, then they collapse into violence. Like the forest from Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, there's something about the relentless, overpowering presence of nature that presses modern man down into his essence.

Of course, this is horror, not classic fantasy. In Holdstock, distilled man-cider is a mythic and aspirational archetype. In Nevill, scrumpy man is filled with rage and venom.

Of course, our four protagonists aren't really the only folks out in the woods. In-between their descent into intra-party chaos, they stumble upon fragments of, for lack of a better word, civilization. Strange figures are woven into the landscape and crumbling buildings hide around bends in the (lack of) path. The foursome spend a long, tense night in some sort of primordial cottage, cluttered with tiny fetishes and an immensely disturbing icon (in a crib, for bonus icky).

Mr. Nevill captures the isolation and the terror of the forest in a way that hasn't been done since The Blair Witch Project. There are still "dark spaces" on the map, and The Ritual yomps straight into one. The group marches further and further away from the known. Their panic leads to a disintegration of both social standards and their understanding of the real. They no longer trust either one another or the world around them.

The second half of the book is a dynamic sequence of unexpected twists. Rather than being the tale of the group's dynamic and (possible) survival, Mr. Nevill singles out Luke and transforms him into a reluctant hero. The misty evil of the Scandinavian woods solidifies in a variety of unanticipated ways - ranging from the breath-takingly fantastic to the bizarrely banal. The Ritual becomes a series of curtains. Each time Luke closes his eyes, turns a corner or falls unconscious, another one is ripped away, revealing an even-odder Evil shuffling its feet in anticipation. The book eventually concludes in zippy cinematic action. The all-pervasive horror of the woods was an unstoppable force. But once evil takes form, it can thump and be thumped.

This isn't meant to be dismissive of the later part of The Ritual. The book is a strange fusion of two different forms of horror story. Each, on its own, is very good. But in their concatenation, The Ritual loses a great deal of its strength. The action-packed physicality of the conclusion is overshadowed by the ancient and intangible evils of the first half. And the book's atmospheric beginning is belittled by the corporeality and, indeed, the substantiality of its ending. It is Mythago Wood building up to the Battle of Helm's Deep.

Mr. Nevill proves - twice - with The Ritual that he's at the top of his class for modern horror writers. He has the rare ability to craft a nebulous atmosphere of terror, as well as to capture cinematic slasherpunk in the written word. Both are incredibly rare talents. The Ritual is slightly unfortunate in that both are on display. I still recommend it - in both halves of the book, Mr. Nevill is clearly a master at work.
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