Tuesday, 9 September 2008
‘The Everlasting’ – Tim Lebbon (Allison and Busby)
Tim Lebbon is one of those authors where I know the name but have somehow never managed to get hold of (and read) one of his books. No matter how many books you read there will always be more that you haven’t. Actually that’s pretty cool, imagine if you had no more new books to read... Anyway, back to Tim Lebbon!
Horror fiction is something that I like to push, where I can, on the blog so it was good to finally get hold of something by Tim Lebbon who (from what I’ve heard) is a pretty big deal as far as horror is concerned. I finished ‘The Everlasting’ last night and... I have to say it didn’t quite do it for me, more on that as we go along. What I will say though is that it is plain to see why people say good things about him; I’m looking forward to reading ‘Fallen’ (his latest work) sooner rather than later...
Scott’s Grandfather died thirty years ago, killing his best friend before committing suicide in an attempt to keep a discovery from falling into the wrong hands. Thirty years on and the vengeful spirit of Lewis (the friend) is back and looking for the Chord of Souls, a book that will not only return him to life but grant him immortality as well. Scott is the only person who can stop Lewis and he has good cause. Accompanied by a strange woman, who claims to be immortal, Scott must seek out the book and destroy it. This is a journey that takes Scott to a place where few people have gone and even fewer have returned from, the House of Screaming Skulls...
‘The Everlasting’ being marketed as ‘Horror’ but having read the book I’d say this is a bit of a misnomer, possibly as a result of Lebbon’s reputation as a writer of horror. While there are certainly scary moments (including a couple that literally made my skin crawl) I wouldn’t say that there was anything that struck me as being something you would see in ‘horror fiction’. Maybe I’m just jaded but I’d say that ‘The Everlasting’ was a ghost story, it’s predominantly about ghosts and there’s no real horror to it. While there may not be much of a distinction I still think it’s worth pointing out, the book basically told me to expect something that it wasn’t giving me and this left me feeling a bit non-plussed to say the least.
This was a shame, in a way, as ‘The Everlasting’ worked really well for what I saw it as being. I’ve already mentioned that there were moments that made my skin crawl and Lebbon has written a genuinely scary tale, he’s a real master of creating an atmosphere of creeping terror that sucks you in and has you turning pages even though you’re scared about what might be on the other side... Scott’s first encounter with the ghosts is a good example of this and events surrounding the finale also made my heart race a little!
It’s a pity then that the rest of the book can sometimes drag with a lot of journeying to and places in order to complete the next stage of the quest (for that is what this book is all about at heart). On the one hand you get to learn more about Scott’s character and that of Nina the mysterious immortal woman. Scott’s memories of his Grandfather add a certain pathos that highlights some of the scary stuff Scott has to contend with although Scott seemed to remember stuff at suspiciously convenient times in order to get to the next stage... Nina’s character is compelling, more through what is left unsaid than what we actually find out about her. There’s an impression given of century’s worth of experience that cannot be conveyed in mere words as well as things that mortals should never find out... I also liked Tigre, the warlike immortal on an eternal quest to die in combat. Lebbon has given us a glimpse into a world (‘The Wide’) that offers scope for more exploration, I wonder if we’ll see these two again in the future...?
‘The Everlasting’ is a read that promised me one thing and ended up giving me something else, it’s also a slow read at times that left me waiting for something to happen. Once I got past that though ‘The Everlasting’ was a tale that sent shivers up my spine and kept me reading. There’s certainly enough there to give me a good feeling about ‘Fallen’, I’ll have to read it and see if there’s an improvement...
Seven and a Quarter out of Ten