Review: Banquet for the Damned / Author: Adam Nevill / Publisher: Pan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Adam Nevill is an author whom I was not overly familiar with. Having never read one of his novels before, I was interested to see just how the quality of Banquet would stack up to the lofty claims that Nevill is Britain’s equivalent to Stephen King, and I had high hopes for the book based on that recommendation alone.
Banquet for the Damned starts off with a quite interesting premise. Set in the quiet student town of St Andrews, the book loosely follows a young rocker named Dante as he meets with a Professor Coldwell, the author of the book that gives this novel its title. Dante sets about discovering the hidden evils behind his dealings with the occult and the ramifications these misadventures have on the people who come into contact with Coldwell.
It all sounds quite intriguing, but the first chapter does not leave a great taste in the mouth. Initially Nevill appears to be far too willing to lose himself in a loquacious writing style that detracts from the story. Now I’m partial to a little bit of wordplay, but not when it seems like a thesaurus has been spewed all over the page.
Luckily, it gets better as Nevill starts to tell his story. Whilst the plot certainly doesn’t rocket along, it does move at a brisk pace, with the murder rate attributed to the black magic beastie and the people behind it being quite impressive in the early going. Unfortunately, poorly built characters abound amongst these early victims, meaning there is little in the way of emotional attachment. This is perhaps unavoidable, as the book places obvious focus on rocker Dante and his friend Tom, alongside Coldwell and his associates, but even their characterisation is haphazard.
The exploration of black magic and the mystery surrounding the creature that is haunting the dreams of so many who come into contact with Coldwell is Banquet’s greatest strength. The first chapter notwithstanding, readers will be gripped by the manner of the various deaths that occur throughout, even if they don’t connect with the characters themselves.
So the book, on the whole, is serviceable but nothing spectacular. It certainly didn’t live up to the high praise on the front cover but, seeing as it is now in its fourth print run, there is clearly a market for the title. Just don’t expect too much from the characters and try instead to enjoy the genuine creepiness of the setting and overarching plot.