Adam Nevill is one of the key figures in contemporary British horror, but to label him as just a horror writer is to do him a disservice. He’s simply a great writer, with the rare ability to be equally adept in both the long and short form of fiction. His novels from the past few years – including The Ritual, Last Days, House of Small Shadows and The Reddening – have certainly attracted praise from critics and garnered him numerous awards and nominations, as well as amassing him a wide readership. His short stories are also just as powerful, and so far he has released several collections, gathered from the many publications in which his work has appeared over the last decade or so.
Wyrd and Other Derelictions is his latest, a rather unorthodox collection in that, instead of the traditional short story format, the seven tales contained feel almost experimental in style. There are no real characters and plot development, no dialogue. Instead they read as snapshots of a particularly interesting location, describing the aftermath of some cataclysmic event, often visceral and extreme. They hint at what has occurred, rather than over-explaining the situation, which adds to the impact and our interpretation of what has gone on. Often it feels like we’ve wandered into the scene of a crime. The detached objective manner of the description, coupled with the masterful use of language, leaves you in no doubt that Nevill is a writer wholly in control of his craft. The writing is rich and evocative. These stories are like prose poems, lyrical, dripping with stylistic elegance, each carefully-chosen word deserving of being savoured for its precision in the context of the sentence. This is not a book to skim-read.
This short-story collection works almost as a literary concept album. The clues combine to create something more than the sum of its parts, unsettling and subtly sinister, a brilliant example of how ‘less-is-more’ can often be far more effective in horror fiction than the dramatic. There are certainly devils in these details. If these stories are experimental, there can be no doubt that Nevill’s literary skills ensure that this demonstration is marked as a success. Whilst it’s fair to acknowledge that not every reader will enjoy the untraditional aspect of the form (as different readers prefer different styles), this particular reviewer loved the hell out of it, and has no hesitation in recommending.