Wow. This one came soooo very close to getting five stars from me. I am a horror buff and I LOVE to be scared ...really, truly freaked out. Not grossed out (I'll take a bit of that in good fun) but creeped out. My ideal physiological response to horror is when I get the heebie-jeebies (pardon my use of technical terms here) -- you know, the tingling spine, sweaty palms, paranoia, pounding pulse. I'm addicted to dread, and if you can make me want to sleep with the light on I will love you forever and ever.
I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to the genre; sometimes suffering from “been there done that” fatigue. It takes a lot to freak me out these days, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Because it isn’t. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them. In fact, I want to. I won’t fight you. Give me something to work with and I’m your gal. I don’t want to say I’m easy, but pretty close ;-)
I didn't have any expectations when I picked up this book. In fact, I can't even remember where or how I heard about it. The premise caught my eye though, because I'm a sucker for "group in peril" scenarios and getting lost in the woods. I've been lost in the woods ... there's nothing scarier in my books. It doesn't take long to start feeling hunted. I mean, there could be anything out there. Anything.
The first 200 pages of this book are some of the creepiest I've read in a loooong time. There's this irresistible slow build that sucks you in to the primeval environment. As the situation worsens and becomes more threatening, Neville's tight descriptive prose has put you into the story so completely that the threat feels unbearably close. Read this camping or tucked away in a cabin somewhere remote and I guarantee you your blood will chill. I read it with all the lights on in the middle of a city and I still didn't want to look out my back window into the darkness. The thought of going camping again this summer is giving me serious heebie-jeebies.
The book shifts gears in Part II (240 pages in) and for awhile, I thought something was lost in the momentum and intensity. It starts to feel like a different novel altogether, about something else entirely. That feeling lasted for about 100 pages. Fortunately, the last 60 pages are an outstanding turnabout, an adrenaline rush that, while lacking in the epic creep from the first half of the novel, nevertheless delivers the goods on sheer terror.