Thursday 1 April 2010

Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill

Some doors are better left closed...In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it's been that way for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight and investigates. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever. A young American woman, Apryl, arrives at Barrington House. She's been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumours claim Lillian was mad. But her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago. Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming, evil force still inhabits the building. And the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying...

I must confess that I don't often read horror - not because I don't like it, but because I am a complete coward and end up sleeping with the lights on after a late night session with anything by King! Apartment 16 is the first outright horror book I've read in a long while, and I found myself disappointed.

The prose is very clean, and the structure of the story lends itself to quick reading - especially as we switch viewpoints between Seth, a man whose life is going downhill at a rapid rate of knots, and Apryl, an American girl trying to work out exactly what has happened to her great-aunt.

The first half of the book was dark and atmospheric, with the 'monster' (as it were) off-screen and represented by noises and fleeting visions of twisted characters out of the corner of the eye. This part was well-written and built up to a point where I was both excited and scared about what would come.

However, the final pay off left me feeling very letdown. It felt as though it trailed off rather than ending with an explosive finale. There didn't seem to be any true resolution, and certainly none of the characters achieved the redemption I thought they would finally achieve. As soon as the backstory concerning Hessen was introduced, the novel became much more dry and there were many occasions where the dialogue between two characters seemed there only to discuss issues that the author needed front and centre.

Although Seth and Apryl were interesting characters (but what the HELL is going on with that name? What on earth is wrong with April?!), the secondary characters didn't seem to add anything to the overall tale. In fact, the whole section dealing with the Friends of Hessen felt completely erroneous.

Also, I have to confess that I procrastinated my way through this book. It just didn't grip me at all - I found myself watching football matches, writing on Twitter, reading other blogs every time I sat down with the intention of completing it. I didn't feel the compulsive need to keep reading it that I thought I would.

Lastly, I must just mention the language. I am not averse to some swearing, especially when used well, but the constant repetition of a certain swear word had me cringing. It came across like a kid in a schoolyard trying to sound adult, rather than as an essential part of the story.

Altogether, I found it dull and unappealing - in fact, I shall damn it and say that, as a horror novel, it doesn't leave me needing to sleep with the lights on.


  1. Agreed - on two counts: the disappointing last act (particularly the shift in perspective) and the names. I mean, Apryl. Come on. Clearly Neville needed someone edgy...

    Still, I had a better time with Apartment 16 than you, Amanda.

  2. Haha, glad it isn't just me who had problems with the name!

    I'll be interested to read your review when it goes up on the Spec Scot :-)

  3. I appreciate the mention of the gratuitous cussing cause that just turns me off. I don't mind it if it's mild, but overuse just dumbs down a novel for me.

    Thanks Amanda.

  4. Like I said in the review, Bryce, I don't mind a little bit of swearing - but there is a point (and a certain word) where it goes over a line for me. And that's what Apartment 16 did. Didn't like the word used. And didn't like how much it was used.

  5. Interesting, because I had no problem with the swearing at all (completely fail to see why some people think swearing 'dumbs down' a book) and no problem with the spelling of the name - it's just a name! Does it really matter how it's spelt? But whatever, each to their own.

    I'm interested in the use of the word 'clean' to describe the prose - not quite sure what you mean? I thought the prose was terrific, really a strong part of the novel. I get the impression that you liked the prose as well, but I'm not sure quite exactly how much...

  6. Cheers for visiting James, and for your comment. Re: the swearing. I am not usually uncomfortable with swearing at all, and I certainly don't think that swearing will dumb down a book! But in this case it was the particular word used - which I still feel is quite taboo. The frequency shocked me. And also I stand by my comment that Nevill seemed to be using it in order to shock - every time it cropped up in the prose it stood out, whereas good use of swearing by an author will fit neatly into the rest of the writing.

    Ha - and it is rather a pet hate of mine to use odd spelling for names. Nowt wrong with using April. She is already unusual as a character for being American, she does not need further exotic labels to add to that sense. Again, it jarred me out of my reading every time I encountered it.

    When I use the word 'clean' with regards to prose I generally mean easy to read, smooth and without unnecessary frills. A step above no-nonsense. This was maybe why the swearing and the name stood out for me, because the prose was strong other than that.

  7. Avoid this one, then, Magemanda.

    Love Adam Nevill's work. Swearing nor the frequency of it really bothers me. I couldn't write male characters in particular who spend time together who don't swear, and frequently. Across all classes, too. It is my experience in life in almost every work or social situation I have been in. And I think an American character called Apryl spelled with a 'y' has a strong air of verisimilitude about it! Horses for courses, I suppose.