Every now and again I like to try something a bit off the beaten track with my reading. One genre I have never really gone for, but always thought I might like, is horror – especially as I used to devour Point Horror’s as a kid/teenager. I think I liked the thrill of feeling scared. So I decided that for my second choice at my book group with ‘The Ladies of Levenshulme and Paul’ I would choose something scary, but not a traditional ghost story, and so ‘Apartment 16’ seemed to fit the bill. I was really getting excited about being scared out of my wits, and also thrilled that several lovely ladies, and Paul, down the road might be in reading in bed scared out of theirs too.
Pan Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 368 pages, kindly sent by the publishers
The basic premise of ‘Apartment 16’ centres on a converted mansion block in London’s Kensington. The tale is told from the perspectives of two people there and how the building they are in starts to slowly take over their lives.
Seth seems to be stuck in life; he wants to paint but has instead ended up making ends meet as a security guard in the mansion block. He has also started to see things such as a hooded child figure that keeps following him, could this be his imagination working overtime as he is bored or could there be something more sinister going on? The second story was that of Apryl (the fact Apryl was spelt such I admitted at book group got on my nerves and off on the wrong foot) who inherits an apartment from her long lost aunt, not apartment number 16 which threw me, in the same block and moves over from America to sort the place out and discover more about her aunt, the discoveries of course being a lot darker than Apryl expects.
It’s very rare for me to be negative about a book, in part because I have stopped making the effort to finish books I don’t like, sadly though ‘Apartment 16’ was a book group choice (mine too, I was mortified) and so I had to finish it, and it just fell completely flat (no pun intended) for me. I think from the cover, which I loved, I expected that there would be chills and spills galore; instead what I got was a book that had some moments of chills, promptly ruined by scenes that in my head were like a very bad and cheaply made horror b-movie. So bad in fact I occasionally laughed, for the wrong reasons. In the books defence it was my imagination that turned them that way, but then I guess the writing led me there.
That makes it sound like Adam Nevill’s writing isn’t any good, and that isn’t true and wouldn’t be fair to say. His descriptions are vivid, sometimes disturbingly so, but I think I am more of the show less let the readers mind scare you more school of reading horror than the out and out gore kind of reader. The problem was when Seth started seeing some of the inhabitants crawling about on their backs like cockroaches I laughed instead of getting freaked out, then when he went into some of their rooms and the scenes of utter horror-gore were described I just started to feel a bit sick. That is where this book and I just didn’t click. I am the same with films, I laughed through all the Saw films because it was just so far fetched, and actually I did read ‘Apartment 16’ as a film, so it shows Nevill’s writing has a certain cinematic quality to it. It did also feel like it was trying very hard to be American, yet stay British if you know what I mean?
I genuinely wanted to like ‘Apartment 16’, and the story of Apryl and her aunt (who through the diary entries of hers Apryl finds seems to be a bit of a nutter, which I liked a lot) was an interesting strand and one that I would have preferred on its own without Seth’s. But then I guess the book wouldn’t have worked in some ways. There were some rather scary parts with Apryl and also a brilliantly bizarre visit to a very, very weird and dark book group, it’s just a shame the rest of the book and its storyline just left me cold. I am sure for horror buffs, and I have seen several reviews by them, this is a great tale and so if you love your horror and haven’t read this then do. Me, I think I might leave this sort of ‘modern horror’ and go back to my old Victorian-esque ghost stories filled with things that go bump in the night, off stage. I think my book group felt the same.
Apartment 16 is a 2010 horror novel by British author Adam Nevill. The book was first published in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2010. Apartment 16 took four and a half years for Nevill to complete, during which time he wrote seventeen drafts. Film rights to Apartment 16 were under option by Blind Monkey Pictures, the horror movie portion of Festival Film & TV, but have since lapsed.
The novel is primarily told via the viewpoints of Apryl, a young American woman, and Seth, an English porter and artist. Apryl and her mother have recently inherited the estate of Lillian, Apryl's great aunt, which includes an apartment at an exclusive London building. She's horrified to discover that her great aunt spent her final years in squalor and mental instability, as the apartment shows that Lillian had become a hoarder after her husband's death. While going through the apartment Apryl discovers that Lillian had spent her days unsuccessfully trying to escape London and blaming a presumed dead artist named Felix Hessen for her inability to stray too far from the apartment. Bewildered, Apryl tries to investigate the mystery behind Hessen in an attempt to learn more about her great aunt and in so doing ends up attracting the attention of supernatural powers inhabiting the apartment building. She manages to find out more about Hessen through a book written by a handsome older man named Miles, who is reluctant to believe Apryl when she claims that Hessen is still alive in some form and is inhabiting the building.
During all of this Seth, who works in apartment building, has been repeatedly drawn to Hessen and his now-abandoned apartment, apartment 16. He starts to interact with one of Hessen's emissaries, a young hoodie. Already depressed about his poor living situation and work prospects, Seth's interactions with the hoodie further push him into a self-destructive spiral of madness that is reflected in artwork that he creates due to Hessen's inspirations. However his revulsion over Hessen's supernatural influence eventually takes its toll and he tries to escape, only to find that any attempt to leave the city ends with confusion and further madness, identical to what happened with Lillian.
Suspense gave a predominantly favorable review for the work, writing "This book will grab a hold of you and like the evil it portrays, won’t let go. It’s a thriller and a horror and the imagery within its pages will have you up long into the night."HorrorNews.net gave Apartment 16 a recommendation, but commented that the shifting perspectives between Apryl and Seth was a little overly distracting.Publishers Weekly was more critical of the work and stated that it was overly predictable.
Sales for Apartment 16 have been high and the book was a bestseller in France, prompting its publisher Bragelonne to purchase the rights to two more of Nevill's work.
This book was published with the help of Adrian Gonzales in the edition