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The Shelter Paperback – April 10, 2013
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About the Author
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 10, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 60 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1484083237
- ISBN-13 : 978-1484083239
- Item Weight : 2.56 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.14 x 8 inches
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Told from the point-of-view of Alan Dean, a boy on the cusp of adolescence, it initially recounts how he and his closest friend, Duncan, have been unaccountably befriended by two older boys who once delighted in bullying them. It’s clear that on some level, Alan and Duncan are flattered by this strange bonding, one between two otherwise lonely pairs. That the two older boys, who still occasionally pick on the younger ones, might grow bored with them altogether, is a worry for Alan. There is, however, another dynamic in play: the smarter of the elder boys seemingly has an affinity for Alan, the second most intelligent of the four.
The day they set out to examine a WWII air-raid shelter, Alan knows something dark awaits them there. As they walk the long distance to this site, there is some discussion about a local boy gone missing. Once the boys reach the eponymous shelter, the pace quickens, but with a steady hand. In the end, the lives of these four are changed irrevocably, and Alan traumatized by what he finds in the dark, both figuratively and literally.
The inevitable comparisons to Stephen King’s “The Body,” another coming-of-age tale, begin and end with four boys setting out on an adventure. “The Shelter,” however, has an altogether darker tone. The children seem far less innocent, the destination painted by a presentiment of coming terrors, and cruelty honed to a significantly sharper edge. Everington manages all this admirably, with perhaps a bit too much foreshadowing, but still an enjoyable descent into nightmare country—certainly moreso than “The Body.” Clearly, James Everington is a name one can expect to hear, for some time to come.
I don't like to talk too much about the plot in my reviews (many a book has been spoiled for me because of reviews like that), but I will say that the story line involves 4 children taking a walk to go check out an old air raid shelter. It is reminiscent of Kings "The Body" or "It" in this way. In fact, the author gives nods to those books in his afterword. James Everington, like King, writes about children very well. You do feel as if you are traveling with them as a part of their group. You might wish you weren't as the story progresses.
I like how the story unfolds and reels you in. It also had an ending that was not quite expected, which I always enjoy. I appreciated how this story focused on more old-school type creeping horror, rather than outright blood and gore.
I enjoy and appreciate this author very much and am looking forward to anything else he may offer in the future.
The story of The Shelter is related by a thirteen year old Alan Dean who, with his best friend Duncan and two older boys that he knows from school, goes in search of an old air raid shelter that supposedly lies outside of their village. When they get there it's location seems a bit bizarre with the shelter being located in the far corner of a field, the atmosphere changes too with the incessant buzzing of wasps and a feeling of rising anger that threatens to overwhelm the boys themselves.
Driven by excitement and fear, and wondering if this is the resting place of Martin, a local schoolboy whose disappearance has dominated the news reports lately, they open the metal lid that covers the entrance to the shelter. Everything appears normal until a simple prank leaves Alan in a terrifying situation and open to a supernatural event. But did it really happen?
As children we are ready to accept the unknown, and in a state of heightened terror we can imagine any amount of horrors. Yet for all those nights of being too afraid to look under the bed, or in the closet or at that bundle of clothes thrown on the chair that looks like something unimaginable.......... did any harm ever come to us? This then brings doubt and cynicism into the mind of the adult, and the realisation that there never was anything there at all. This is the thought that the older Alan will ponder as he reviews the events of that summer.
The writing style does need some polishing, and the idea itself of using a group of bored children to propel the story along isn't all that original - just read Stephen King and Dan Simmons - but I found that I really liked it because of the memories that it stirred up for me and I almost (almost mind you) felt a pang for a genuine English Summer.
Top reviews from other countries
It will not be my last.
The Shelter is a deft exercise in short form storytelling – falling in that twilight zone between short story and novella, the kind of length that you basically never saw outside an anthology or collection, prior to the rise of the e-book.
The story is told in flashback, to a summer holiday and an unhappy bunch of childhood – well, 'friends', I suppose, though it's clear from the outset that there's an unpleasant power dynamic at work. It's one of many superb touches in the story, actually – that awkward teen/pre-teen cusp period when age and perceived maturity or cool factor can lead vulnerable lads to hang out with people they know are not good for them – worse, treat them with contempt.
As the story is told in flashback, some of this is told explicitly, but as much is implied from the way the kids interact, and I felt more than once the twinge of uncomfortable recognition at depicted relationships. I think it takes a real talent to so completely recall childhood with this level of clarity and authenticity, and bring it to life on the page.
The horror elements of the tale are similarly well handled – the title alone gives us sufficient foreshadowing that the impromptu field trip to the abandoned air raid shelter is unlikely to end well. The way the tensions build within the group as the story develops is conveyed smartly, and creates a very effective sense of dread. There's a subtlety to it, and real skill, and I found myself feeling deeply troubled before the kids even reached their destination.
Given the length of the piece, I will discuss the plot no further except to say that it didn't disappoint at all. In fact, I would thoroughly recommend this slice of rural childhood horror to anyone for whom that premise even remotely appeals. It's a first rate story, with vividly realised, achingly real characters, and a superb example of how to handle subtle build tension and horror. Elements of King's IT, but at the same time a distinct UK voice and very much an original tale in it's own right. I don't have much higher praise than that.
I love coming-of-age tales and I love eighties nostalgia and so, as my introduction to the writing of James Everington, this couldn't have gone much better at all. Although he's at the opposite end of the decade to me (in terms of points of reference), he perfectly evokes a long boring summer to the extent that the reader can almost feel the prickly heat and hear the flies buzzing and there's nothing that knocks this illusion at all. The characters are well drawn, though Alan - who narrates - is probably the only one most people will identify with - Tom and Duncan are herd animals, not quite smart enough to strike out on their own and instead happy to be the muscle, whilst Mark is almost chilling in his relentness need to be in control, though Everington spotlights his vulnerability well as the story progresses. The peer pressure too is well evoked, with the other boys being two years old than Alan, so he goes along them with because he's too scared not to, plus he likes the increased social status their comradeship gives him.
The shelter itself is a superb invention, very real and with a claustrophobic atmosphere that is almost tangible. When Alan sees what he sees, we're there on the ladder with him and equally desperate for release.
With an afterword that explains where the story came from, which is interesting in itself, this is an excellent novella. It has good pace, believable characters, a nice use of location and a sureness in the telling that pulls the reader through. A wonderful exploration of powerful, quiet horror, this is well worth a read and highly recommended.
James Everington is a writer to watch out for. His eye for detail - and the psychology of his characters - make for an immersive experience. You fall through a hole between the words, and you're gone back in time, a schoolkid in the British countryside.
I also enjoyed the coda at the end, where James discusses the provenance of the story - an unpresuming glimpse into the writing process that does a great job of humanising the writer and warming the reader to the story all the more...