Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: The Shelter by James Everington

The Shelter
Written by James Everington

Published: 2011

Synopsis: It’s a long, drowsy summer at the end of the 1980s, and Alan Dean and three of his friends cross the fields behind their village to look for a rumoured WW2 air raid shelter. Only half believing that it even exists beyond schoolboy gossip, the four boys nevertheless feel an odd tension and unease. And when they do find the shelter, and go down inside it, the strange and horrifying events that follow will test their adolescent friendships to breaking point, and affect the rest of their lives...

My Thoughts: After submitting a draft to my supervisor I decided to celebrate by finally picking up something that wasn't a graphic novel or text book! A couple of months back James Everington approached me about reading his new novella, The Shelter, and now seemed the perfect time to dive into his claustrophobic and moody horror. I really need to congratulate myself for making this choice, because not only did I love the book, but I am now incredibly eager to really kick start my reading...even if it means reducing my sleep to 2 hours a day!

The Shelter is quite a small book (hence referring to it as a novella previously), which works incredibly in its favour. This is a very immersive book, and I think it will resonate to readers much more distinctly if they read it from cover to cover in one go. Which is where the length comes in as a real benefit, obviously. I found myself stuck right in amongst the claustrophobic fear that builds and builds to oppressive heights as we follow Alan Dean's story, and I honestly think if I had tuned out and come back to it the next day it might not have impacted me quite as heavily. That isn't to say it relies on this, and I'm sure there are people out there who have read it in shorter bursts and still enjoy it. But if I can offer one piece of advice, it'd be find a comfortable spot, dig yourself in and read, read, read until The Shelter is complete. You can thank me later.

The Shelter is reminiscent of a Stephen King short story. In fact, James Everington mentions in his Author's Note that he was heavily influenced by the work of King at the time. It shows. Like King, Everington has a fantastic ability for painting the characters for you in great detail that captivates every sense. I could smell the sweat steaming off Tom's body, I could see the glint of Mark's earring under his long hair, and I could hear the ever present "thud-thud" of Alan's heart as he grew closer to the ominous shelter. Also like King, the book manages to balance that precarious line between real and supernatural horror. The story is, for the most part, grounded in the real, but there is that ever present "what if"  that you simply can't ignore. The real focus of the story are these four boys, Alan in particular, and this one day in their life, a hot summer day where everything changed. What happened doesn't really matter, what matters is the interactions and the reactions of these boys and the oppressive tension that builds because of it. Like Stephen King, James Everington manages to hit all these highs and produce a dark and moody horror that stays with you because of the possibility of its reality.

The Shelter is a great book that manages to wind itself tight around you until you find yourself struggling to catch you breath. This is definitely a "stayer" and I imagine parts of the book will continue to haunt me for weeks to come. So for any fans of Stephen King, atmospheric horror or short, unique reads then consider reading The Shelter, I think it'll be right up your alley!


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