All the Fiends of Hell by Adam Nevill, Horror Book Review
Adam Nevill delivers an apocalypse like none other,
with humankind fading out with a near silent whimper
Since The Reddening (2019) was released Adam Nevill has since dropped three further novels, with his latest All the Fiends of Hell being his best work since The Reddening, which is amongst the best horror novels of the last decade. Size wise, All the Fiends of Hell is a bigger beast than Cunning Folk (2021) and The Vessel (2022) coming in at around 360-pages with a storyline which is also much broader in scope, particularly in comparison to the previous two novels which were self-contained stories set in and around isolated locations.
Gone are the strange neighbours and unsettling old women which inhabited the previous two novels and instead All the Fiends of Hell rugby tackles the end of the world, a bizarre End of Days apocalypse, or perhaps something else entirely. Whatever this cataclysmic event is, the reader never sees it head on and is slowly drip fed what occurred on the ‘night of the bells,’ where 99.9999999% of the population opened their doors, walked, or ascended to God knows where (not Heaven, that’s for sure). Karl wakes up after a bout of illness, feeling sorry for himself, depressed and pining for his long-gone wife, takes a walk around the deserted neighbourhood only to find everybody has vanished and have left their doors wide open. Is there anything more (un)British than that?
Set in the south of England, where Nevill’s fiction for the last decade routinely plays out, one could not help thinking of Cillian Murphy wandering around a deserted London in 28 Days Later, instead we have Karl struggling to comprehend what on earth has happened. Initially he comes across as a whine and a moan but is thrown so wildly out of his depth it was impossible not to root for the 46-year-old who literally faces a world killer as he stumbles and stutters into unlikely hero territory.
Interestingly, most of Nevill’s horrors and monsters are usually very self-contained and secretive, lurking in the shadows, isolated locations, basements and anonymous derelict houses. All the Fiends of Hell throws this blueprint out the window, as after the ‘night of the bells’ the population has departed except for the old, immobile and frail. Because of this the novel also lacks traditional heroes and instead we follow the exceptionally ordinary and scared Karl who either has more lives than a cat or the survival instinct to top The Walking Dead legend Rick Grimes.
Adam Nevill’s literary strengths are built around the manner in which he slowly builds tension and elevated levels of fear peppered with shocking violence. In this respect All the Fiends of Hell does not disappoint, or hold back, and some of the breaking bones scenes were a combination of brutal, vicious and downright cruel, particularly as the most defenceless were on the receiving end. The creatures were incredibly unsettling and the scenes in the old folks home, hospital and campervan site were as bleak as they were inevitable.
The fact that the creatures could only see humans when there was a certain type of red light in the sky was a genius way of allowing the story to develop and give Karl the tiniest slither of an edge. The reddening sky was a smart device for ramping up the fear levels and hopelessness as ultimately nobody can outrun the sky, or the almost militaristic monsters which lurk in it.
Even though they were wildly different beasts All the Fiends of Hell still reminded me of Lost Girl, in which the world is slowly dying due to climate change with the author providing incredible layer after layer of detail, this book is a polar opposite. The world dies overnight and nobody knows anything except for briefly shared stories about what happened on the ‘night of the bells.’
A very ordinary man goes on a terrifying journey and it is impossible not to be swept along with him, especially after he encounters two children, with continued strong echo of Lost Girl vibrating into the narrative. These scenes were initially awkward, later became moving, with this three-way friendship becoming one of the strongest aspects of the story, especially after things go sideways and Karl’s anxieties jump off the page and become dread for the reader. Come on Adam, please give the guy a break.
In Adam Nevill’s most recent new collection of short stories Wyrd and Other Derelictions there are tales which reflect the mood which radiates from this astonishingly bleak novel. In this particular collection all the stories are character-free descriptive snapshots of horrific events, either past or recent and there was a story set on a beach which made me think of All the Fiends of Hell. Whatever happens to Karl and the two kids he helps, in the longer term, the only thing that lies ahead for the world is a footnote in a story similar to those featured in Wyrd. But perhaps not today.
This novel was a smart change of direction and undoubtedly the closest Adam Nevill has come to writing a post-apocalyptic (not quite action driven) novel and as his style, keeps it small, restrained and tight. Certainly, he expands the plot beyond precise locations, such as 82 Edgware Road, where No One Gets Out Alive (2014) is entirely based, but still manages to keep things intimate, tight and with very few characters. There is nothing loud or bombastic about Nevill’s apocalypse, he is not Robert McCammon, Larry Niven or Stephen King, instead, humankind is defeated without a whimper and off-page. However, there is something totally captivating about poor old Karl trying to keep humanity’s final lightbulb flickering. Highly recommended and a magnificent change of pace from one of the Britain’s finest horror writers.
A Horror Book Review from Tony Jones
PRE-ORDER – All The Fiends Of Hell by Adam Nevill – limited edition hardback book
This title will be released on 2nd April 2024
The red night of bells heralds global catastrophe. Annihilation on a biblical scale.
Seeing the morning is no blessing. The handful of scattered survivors are confronted by blood-red skies and an infestation of predatory horrors that never originated on earth. An occupying force intent on erasing the remnants of animal life from the planet.
Across the deserted landscapes of England, bereft of infrastructure and society, the overlooked can either hide or try to outrun the infernal hunting terrors. Until a rumour emerges claiming that the sea may offer an escape.
Ordinary, unexceptional, directionless Karl, is one of the few who made it through the first night. In the company of two orphans, he flees south. But only into horrifying revelations and greater peril, where a transformed world and expanding race of ravening creatures await. Driven to the end of the country and himself, he must overcome alien and human malevolence and act in ways that were unthinkable mere days before.
All The Fiends of Hell is a novel of alien horror from the four times winner of the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel.
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