The Ritual: Adam Nevill
Reviewed By Steve Stred
In 2011, Adam Nevill released his book ‘The Ritual‘ which caught the eye of filmmakers and became a celebrated 2017 Netflix movie.
At the time of it’s release to Netflix, I was just starting to dip my toes into the Horror Community more and more and had not read any of Nevill’s work. As well, in 2017, a period of time worked out that my wife and son went on a visit to my In-Law’s and I had time available to watch the movie.
‘The Ritual‘ movie scared the crap out of me. If you’ve followed any of the books I love or the books I write – ‘The Ritual’ the book scared the crap out of me, and now having read ‘Last Days‘ and ‘The Ritual‘ Nevill has easily set himself apart as an author who is a must-read. I’ll be starting ‘The Reddening‘ tonight and can’t wait.
What I liked: I loved this book. ALL OF IT. When I began to read this, many people said “oh, just wait until the last quarter.” Well, yes, the last quarter was very different than the first three quarters. I personally loved it, and I’ll say why later.
‘The Ritual‘ follows a group of four friends hiking through the woods. This is set in the woods of Sweden and the four friends used to be best friends. Now, through time and life events, the friendships are strained and they are holding on to the last grasps of what used to be. Then, unexpectedly, an injury occurs and a decision is made. The group will cut through a protected area that is virgin forest. The decision is supposed to be a short cut and get them to help faster. But, as we come to expect in horror books, things go very wrong. A number of discoveries occur and when shelter is found, visions begin to plague the friends.
For me, every single chapter had me riveted and on the edge of my seat. The first three quarters are decently faithful to the movie, but for me personally the book (as they always do) created a much more claustrophobic environment where the forest plays as much as an antagonist as whatever it is that’s tracking them.
Growing up, I used to hunt a lot with my dad and grandpa. To this day, the scariest moment I ever had was when we were tracked by a starving cougar. We knew something was following us and we caught glimpses of movement and heard rogue branches crack and ground crunching. My grandpa ended up branching off, circling around and finding the animal 50 feet from us. The fear of knowing something is coming for you, but not knowing what it was, was panic attack inducing.
Now, let’s chat about the last quarter. Very, very different than the movie. But for me, it worked perfectly. I think mileage will vary for readers from this ending and I think a lot of that comes from their experience in the wilderness. I won’t discuss the main elements of the “why” that causes the actions in the book, that’s too much spoiler territory, but much like the movie, the character ends up at a house in the middle of the wilderness.
When hunting/hiking in BC/PNW and I’d assume on most wilderness areas, you will inevitably come across old, abandoned shacks. Hunting shacks, mining shacks, outposts. There are hundreds of them peppering the landscape but unseen until stumbled upon.
As an example of “discovering” oddities, Moyie, BC was a hamlet that didn’t exist until the Crowsnest Pass was built. At the time of blasting etc, the small townsite didn’t exist, people were travelling around Moyie Lake. When blasting commenced a small cemetery was found, unknown until the roadway was put in. Whenever we drive by it, it’s always incredibly creepy.
Nevill writes with effortless joy, even when the worst is happening, I picture Nevill smiling with glee over the prose he is putting down on paper.
What I didn’t like: NOT ENOUGH MODER. Too on the point? Insert smiling face emoji people reading this! The movie introduced the stunning elder god that is Moder and we do get to see our resurrected one in all its glory at the end of the book, but seriously, I love this creature so much that I desperately wanted to see more.
Why you should buy it: Look, Nevill is an outstanding writer and is ushering in the next group of “big-time authors” where the reading public outside of the horror genre discover their writing. Nevill has crafted such a dread induced read that I found it stunning to read but to know that he can continually conjure the creeping sense of stuff is about to be really bad. Between this, the short story collections and ‘Last Days‘ I’ve been blessed to discover this ‘new to me author’ and diving into ‘The Reddening‘ and ‘Apartment 16,’ I’m so excited to see how much sleep I lose.
In Adam Nevill’s The Ritual, four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.
Lost, hungry and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, they stumble across an isolated old house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of old rites and pagan sacrifices; ancient artefacts and unidentifiable bones. A place of dark ritual and home to a bestial presence that is still present in the ancient forest, and now they’re the prey.
As the four friends struggle toward salvation they discover that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees…
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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