Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Review: Last Days by Brian Evenson

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

Evenson's Last Days is a combination of various elements. The first part reads like some weird combination of Kafka, a mystery novel, and horror. The second part on the other hand embraces its absurdity and delves more into the human psyche. Combined, it's an unconventional reading experiences that provokes the reader one way or another.

The first thing I noticed is Evenson's protagonist who is not the most sympathetic of characters as there's a certain aloofness about him (think more along the lines of Kafka's K). Now some readers might complain about that particular aspect but it's not an issue with me. Instead, I was drawn into the narrative thanks to Evenson's easily-understood writing style and insertion of surreal elements. The characters have a distinctive tone to them, some utilizing and embracing cliche, others simply enigmatic which serves to heighten the atmosphere of mystery that pervades throughout the book.

Another element going for this title is the horror. On one hand, you have horror on the visceral level as there are a couple of gruesome scenes in here although Evenson isn't the type to expound on those details. What he focuses on instead is horror on the intellectual level for me, it works. Again, Last Days is reminiscent of a modern Kafka with its inclusion of the hero's "other-ness", frustrating scenarios, and ludicrous circumstances.

Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable read for me, playing with my curiosity and horror. The deal breaker for readers will probably depend on whether they're accepting of the protagonist or not but once you accept that this is a story that revolves more around plot and horror rather than characterization, it's a bizarre and rewarding read from then onwards. Last Days is fresh and invigorating at the same time employing subtle elements of horror and mystery.

Rating: 3/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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