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The Ritual Paperback – February 14, 2012
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“A mind-twisting journey into the dark backwoods of terror. Deeply disturbing and absolutely riveting.” ―Jonathan Maberry
“A book which preys on our most basic, instinctive fears, then amplifies them ten-fold. A desperate, intense descent into the depths of somewhere unimaginably ancient and unspeakably evil.” ―David Moody
“'And on the second day things did not get better.' This suitably foreboding opening sentence sets the stage for a dark and mesmerizing horror debut that riffs on Algernon Blackwood's classic story 'The Wendigo.' Hutch, Luke, Dom, and Phil set off on a camping trip in the forests of Sweden, only to find the woods hostile to their explorations. Tensions arise when it becomes clear that two of the party aren't physically up to the challenges of navigating the rough terrain, and fears set in with the discovery of an eviscerated 'thing' hanging higher up in a tree then any animal would place it. Nevill makes the natural world deeply menacing, using the power of suggestion rather than explicit images to create a growing claustrophobic feeling as the difficult journey to return to some semblance of civilization embeds the quartet only further in the grasp of primal evil.” ―Publishers Weekly – Starred Review
“A spine-tingling tale of one man's survival in a truly horrific realm.” ―Suspense Magazine
About the Author
Adam Nevill (aka Adam L. G. Nevill) was born in Birmingham, England, in 1969 and grew up in England and New Zealand. He is the author of the supernatural horror novels Banquet for the Damned, Apartment 16, The Ritual, Last Days, House of Small Shadows, No One Gets Out Alive, and Lost Girl. In 2012, 2013 and 2015 his novels were the winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. The Ritual and Last Days were also awarded Best in Category: Horror, by R.U.S.A. Adam lives in Devon, England, and can be contacted through adamlgnevill.com.
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But even within that first half, there are some spots that are really poorly done. There are a couple of chapters where the narration jumps between first, second, and third person, all within the same chapter. I think this may have been done intentionally, to heighten the sense of confusion, but it really just dumped me out of the story instead.
The Ritual could have been better, but it was still worth the time to read.
Then things start to go wrong--dreadfully wrong. The quartet come across a "dead thing... hanging from a tree... beyond the reach of a man standing upright... in such a tattered state they could not tell what it had once been." It is "a fresh kill." They are most likely lost and both Phil and Dom are slowing the group's progress. Stumbling upon a trail, they reach an old abandoned, simple wooden house, a Stuga. Inside the walls are covered with animal skulls and crucifixes and the floors are covered with pieces of bone. Upstairs is a "bed" that defies description: "a hideous rotten effigy"--created by people who most likely were driven insane by life in the forest, the cold, the long dark nights. But something worse--far worse--is out in the woods, knocking over live trees and filled with blood lust.
The Ritual (2011) is the first novel of British writer Adam Nevill to be published in the United States. He has also written Banquet for the Damned (2008), Apartment 16 (2010), and The Last Days (2012).
Stories about being lost in the woods and being pursued by something evil and deadly have to be as old as mankind itself. Thus, Nevill is hardly treading new ground in The Ritual even if his characters are. However, he brings a lively storytelling style to his novel and incredible suspense which makes The Ritual a real page-turner. As far too much time passes on the hike, as supplies begin to dwindle, as their physical abilities decline, the men make more and more bizarre discoveries--seeing things that have been unseen by human eyes for ages--perhaps even longer. They move from camping to survival mode and then the inevitable starts to happen: they begin to fall prey to the thing that is out there and following them.
Nevill gives his reader much more character development than many horror writers do. Readers get to know each of the four men and their distinct personalities. More than anything, however, Nevill returns to an old tenet of horror stories--be they print or film--you don't show the monster sooner than you have to... the imagination is greater than anything a writer or special effects technician can create. Unlike so many books and movies written and made today that immediately try to impress the reader or audience with some kind of hideous creature, Nevill keeps the readers guessing about what is exactly in the woods and closing in on the men. The men hear things, they see flashes of shadow, they find evidence of something monstrous, and what starts to happen to them one by one is beyond comprehendible--all of which makes reading The Ritual a fast-moving gem and delight.
Nevill does pull a fast one on the reader: following an incredible intense number of pages of suspense and terror the events of the novel appear to be ready to come to an end, but readers will be shocked to see that there are nearly 175 pages remaining. The horror is far from over.
Nevill entitles the second portion of his novel "South of Heaven." It is a bizarre mixture of new age religion, pagan Scandinavian/Norwegian religion, and heavy metal music with more than a twinge of black magic and human sacrifice thrown in for the hell of it. There is also more than a bit of influence from H. P. Lovecraft. This portion of the novel, although it ties directly to the majority of The Ritual, could almost be a stand-alone novella. For some readers it is going to add new and off-beat dimensions to the lost-in-the-woods-with-a-monster-killing-and-eating-everyone theme that Nevill has going for most of the novel. This segment of the novel also adds some truly bizarre and wicked characters to the story and explains some of the more uncanny discoveries that the four men make on their trek through the woods. For other readers, "South of Heaven" will be seen merely as throwing in the kitchen sink, especially after all of the additional chaotic and bloody goings-on, the novel ends the way it could and probably would have without this additional portion added to the story.
Regardless of the reader's attitude toward the latter portion of Nevill's novel, there is no discounting his creativity and suspenseful storytelling and most readers are going to readily anticipate more of Adam Nevill's work being released in the United States.
The Ritual was written incredibly well. Choosing a topic, such as being lost in the woods, is one that can become redundant, but Nevill found a way to revive a common storyline and create an new and interesting tale. There are twists that you won't except and an ending that is worth the read.
It had some pacing issues but overall entertaining.
I personally believe that the mind comes with its own raw, dangling uvula. A sort of racially shared Jungian psychic gag reflex.
While writers like Chuck Palahnuik delight in ramming their finger in to induce vomiting, The Ritual skillfully tickles. Just enough to turn reasonable, educated people into packs of terrified violent apes with rocks in hand, standing back-to-back and screaming with loathing out into the vast unreasoning darkness.
I did feel kind of bad for the book's depiction of pagan metal enthusiasts, as I know two of that ilk who are almost superhumanly kind and gentle people - but the generalisation well suits our view through the eyes of the (barely) middle-class London protagonist.
The Ritual will make you want to seek out some warm, well-lit place stuffed with the comfort of good food and friends, but will leave you still uneasily aware of the night outside.
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.....synaptic vs. synovial?