Banquet for the Damned Paperback – 13 Mar 2014
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From the half-glimpsed manifestations that haunt the entire book to the pure visceral horror of the climax, from the understated menace that lurks under passages of dialogue to the lyrical terror we experience elsewhere, Nevill the novelist displays an impressive range of skills and effects (Ramsey Campbell)
Incredibly accomplished and with a really neat and original monster at the heart of the story. It’s a feast worth savouring (Shivers)
Banquet for the Damned is the first novel from award-winning horror author Adam Nevill. It is perfect for fans of Stephen King and M R James.See all Product description
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I love the way he drags you back into the past to give you an idea of whats happening in the present.
Glad Adam Nevill wasn't my history teacher at school. Superb book.
So I put a bit of pressure on myself and decided I'd read all his novels, one after the other...
Banquet For The Damned opens with a young man waking from what might be a state of sleep-walking, which has taken him to a beach at night. There, he hears strange, disembodied voices whispering and saying his name and is finally pursued by a barely seen, dark inhuman presence. It's a cracking scene and sets the tone for what is a highly polished and extremely well-written ghost story (albeit one with antecedents in other forms of horror fiction). Thereafter, we follow the fortunes of Dante and his friend Tom, as they uproot from Birmingham to relocate to the old University town of St. Andrews in Scotland. Dante has been in correspondence with one Eliot Coldwell, a supposed professor at the University, who once wrote a book called Banquet For The Damned, a sort of treatise on the lamentable deterioration of humanities interest and connection with spiritual and occult practices (Coldwell's contention). Dante, and Tom, the last two members of their fractured band, wish to create a concept album based on Coldwell's book-in-progress. Unfortunately, not all is as it seems...
Okay, my intention was to read this in less than a week as my reading habits have become very ponderous the last few years, and after reading Gary McMahon's Beyond Here Lies Nothing in four days, I thought I was on to a roll (bacon and tattie scone, preferably...)... Unfortunately, it took me near a month to finish, due to ill health, work and my general sloth-like ability to waste time doing nothing. Still, it did not diminish my sheer enjoyment of the story and I suspect that if and when I read it again, I'll love it even more if I can finish it quicker. One other thing that stopped me from giving it my full attention was the fact that I didn't want to read it in the house at night, alone. It was too bloody creepy in places.
The story takes place from a number of third person points of view, giving us a broad overview of what's going on, yet there is real skill involved in the fact that we are as much in the dark as many of the players, even up until the final chapters. The story takes in occult ceremonies, witch-craft, the lingering of evil and violent deeds in geographical locations, cultural and anthropological superstitions, night-terrors and sleep paralysis, all set against the wonderfully, almost Gothic, backdrop of St. Andrews. Superficially, it could be a story straight from the original Hammer studios, yet the prose is beautiful and full of depth, and treats its subject matter with a depth and seriousness that never becomes po-faced. Of course, the pace can be leisurely and there are long passages where little seems to occur between the scenes of dread and outright horror, but these are so well written and informative (whether it's giving background, historical information on the area, or simply developing the characters), that it is a joy to read.
What I think that Adam does so well, and understands so completely about the best horror writing, is that it's more about what you don't see than what you do. Anyone can throw a few paragraphs showcasing a bit of violence or gore, but it takes a true craftsman to give you case of skin-crawl at the simple description of some half-glimpsed shadows. This is the essence of true horror writing, where the author persuades you, the reader, to do the work in your own imagination. Even in the final pages, when by rights we should be seeing the 'monster' in full, it still hugs the darkness and is fleshed out by the readers mind as opposed to a full description on the page. Don't get me wrong; there is some violence, but it's extremely sporadic and is utterly essential to both the story and the atmosphere. Again, it's only a few lines, but what is there conjures up such pictures in the mind that it is all the more disturbing and affecting for that.
As I said at the start, it's very much a ghost story in the style of the greats, such as MR James, Poe and such, but it also pays some due to, in my opinion, the likes of Dennis Wheatley, Hammer and Amicus films, thin shades of Lovecraft and his ilk, even some T. E. D. Klein.
It's not without some minor flaws. I did think it could have been a touch shorter. For a first novel, it's a big 'un and occasionally, I felt that there were parts that were simply repeating what had gone before. Also, and this is a very personal thing, I'm not a fan at all of present tense narratives. I find them hard to get into and often they serve to distance the story from me. I appreciate this is a very subjective thing and no doubt, it has worked very well for many. It's a testament to the book that I still finished and enjoyed it despite this.
So, all in all, if I was giving a score I'd say it hovers between a 7 or 8 out of 10 (I know I've given it a 4 out of 5 above, but its closer to a 4.5 in my opinion...). I'm glad I finally pulled my finger out and I look forward to the next one from Adam, Apartment 16...