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Banquet for the Damned
Adam L.G. Nevill
Virgin Books, 420 pages

Banquet for the Damned
Adam L.G. Nevill
Adam L.G. Nevill was born in Birmingham, England in 1969 and grew up in England and New Zealand. A graduate of the University of St Andrews Creative Writing Masters programme, he is the author of nine novels under a pseudonym for Virgin Books. His most recent short story appearance was featured in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2006, edited by Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 17, edited by Stephen Jones. Besides eight years spent as a librarian and researcher for several British television companies, he has endured a variety of occupations, including temporary office worker, night-club doorman, night watchman and porter. He currently lives in London and works in publishing.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Hebblethwaite

Struggling musician Dante Shaw has his hopes pinned on a planned concept album based around a book on the occult written by reclusive academic Eliot Coldwell. With his friend and bandmate Tom in tow, Dante travels up to Scotland,accepting an invitation to work as Coldwell's research assistant at the University of St. Andrews. Coldwell proves reluctant to discuss his work with Dante, but is keen for the young man to meet his wild and beautiful associate, Beth -- leading Dante to suspect he has been lured to the town under false pretences.

Meanwhile, American anthropologist Hart Miller has come to St. Andrews to investigate a series of night terrors afflicting some of the students there. But the situation is worse than he could ever imagine, because the people experiencing these night terrors are meeting gory deaths -- and the victims all seem to be linked to a paranormal society set up by Eliot Coldwell. Then Dante starts to have bad dreams...

Another mass-market reissue of a PS Publishing title, Adam Nevill's Banquet for the Damned maintains the high standard of Virgin's new horror line. First of all, it's a gripping read from beginning to end; whatever's happening, whatever the mood, reading the book is anything but a chore. And Nevill finds a good balance between different moods: the characters have a strong sense that something out of the ordinary is going on in St. Andrews, but they're not sure precisely what; correspondingly, the author maintains a creeping, uncertain atmosphere throughout the novel. But we, as readers, know more than the characters; we get to see the work of Nevill's supernatural menace in the book's more visceral passages. These certainly make one flinch (which may be putting it mildly!), but they're intermittent and well integrated into the fabric and rhythms of the text.

Having said that we learn more than the characters, it is striking how much we don't see in Banquet for the Damned (indeed, the perhaps the book's main source of narrative momentum is the mystery of what's going on, rather than any kind of horror). We don't get a complete understanding or clear mental image of the supernatural being at the story's heart; yet that doesn't matter, because the greatest horrors in Nevill's tale are human. The most threatening presence in the novel is the character of Beth -- who may be possessed, but it's her unfathomable behaviour as a human being that makes her so dangerous. Beth is part of a circle, the identities of whose members are a little too conveniently revealed; but Nevill makes up for this by presenting them in the end as anonymous and inscrutable -- and, hence, a more genuine threat.

And it's the end that provides the most chilling horror of the whole book. As Dante observes, it's "a bearded hippie and a hair-metal singer with the future of the town at stake" -- yet Nevill makes this entirely credible, by treating it in such a matter-of-fact way. And the means of defeating the occult forces also belong to cold reality, as Dante finds himself with no option but to commit a heinous act of his own. This is the great strength of Banquet for the Damned: that it brings together the graphic and the subtle, supernatural and human horror, and makes them play their parts to the best effect.

Copyright © 2008 David Hebblethwaite

David lives in Yorkshire where he reads a lot of books and occasionally does other things. His reviews have appeared in various venues and are all logged at his review blog He also maintains a personal blog, Reading by the Moon.

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