The Vessel: Adam Nevill
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Isn’t it great to have a new Nevill on an almost annual basis? Well, it is for this reader. I’m admittedly late to the Nevill game, having only really dove into his work over the last four years or so, but in that time not only has he become one of my favorite authors, but reading his releases is always an education in storytelling, at least for me.
With Nevill, you know you’ll get darkness and despair, but you’re never totally confident on the medium of ‘how.’ With ‘Wyrd and Other Derelictions’ we got stories with no characters. With ‘The Reddening’ we had a folklore story set in a remote location. With ‘Cunning Folk’ we had a horrific story set in an idyllic small town location. And now, with ‘The Vessel,’ we get a pagan-tinged witch style story set on the lands of a large homestead.
Nevill continues to push himself as a storyteller, which he dives into in the afterword.
What I liked: The story follows Jess, trying to get on her own feet after her former significant other abused her. He spent some time in jail, but is out now and is trying to push his way into his ex’s life, and their daughter’s, Izzie.
Jess gets a solid job, as relief care aide for Flo, an older woman with dementia who spends her days in her wheelchair in her sprawling home. Nevill does a great job of setting up the chessboard before he begins to move the pieces towards the ultimate moments. Throughout, I was rapt, knowing at any moment ‘it’ was going to happen, that we would come upon the incident that threw open the doors and exposed the truths and when it does, the reader will not be disappointed.
The ending was a brutal finale, a culmination of everything we’d seen teased and subtly highlighted.
What I didn’t like: I found many descriptive passages read very much like a screenplay. Almost devoid of any emotional attachment at times. As this started life as a screenplay, that’s understandable, but (and a part of this might be that my last read of Adam’s was the emotional Lost Girl novel) it just felt limited and un-expanded upon. I think if this had been another 100 pages it would’ve nailed all of that – but then I also find myself arguing back with myself that this was the point of why Adam wrote it, which he described in the afterword.
Why you should buy this: This novella will have you snared into its grubby little claws from the moment you begin. You’ll find that you simply can’t not read it once you crack it open. Nevill is a gifted writer who knows how to grab the readers and not let go and this is no different. Another solid outing from a truly solid author.
‘A watcher may remark that after sleeping for so long, the building appears to have been roused.’
Struggling with money, raising a child alone and fleeing a volatile ex, Jess McMachen accepts a job caring for an elderly patient. Flo Gardner – a disturbed shut-in and invalid. But if Jess can hold this job down, she and her daughter, Izzy, can begin a new life.
Flo’s vast home, Nerthus House, may resemble a stately vicarage in an idyllic village, but the labyrinthine interior is a dark, cluttered warren filled with pagan artefacts.
And Nerthus House lives in the shadow of a malevolent secret. A sinister enigma determined to reveal itself to Jess and to drive her to the end of her tether. Not only is she stricken by the malign manipulation of the Vicarage’s bleak past, but mercurial Flo is soon casting a baleful influence over young Izzy. What appeared to be a routine job soon becomes a battle for Jess’s sanity and the control of her child.
It’s as if an ancient ritual was triggered when Jess crossed the threshold of the vicarage. A rite leading her and Izzy to a terrifying critical mass, where all will be lost or saved.
Steve Stred is the Splatterpunk Nominated Author of ‘Sacrament’ and ‘Mastodon.’
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Steve has released over a dozen novels and novellas as well as a number of collections. He has appeared alongside some of horror’s biggest names within some truly excellent anthologies.
He is a proud co-founder of the LOHF Writer’s Grant and an Active Member of the HWA.