After reading The Monstrous, a collection of horror shorts edited by Ellen Datlow, I fancied myself reborn; a fan of a new genre. So when Adam Vine emailed me asking if I’d review his debut horror novel, Lurk, I was quick to accept.
Here’s the thing I learned from my second foray into the genre: I’m something of a scaredy-cat. And I shall henceforth wear that mantle with pride. Another thing I learned is that I really enjoy reading horror.
It is a peculiar thing, to discover that a genre which has no appeal for me in visual media resonates so strongly in literary form. I should like to study this more closely, but I imagine that it’s not all that complicated. The feeling a page-turning novel like Lurk elicits in me is likely the same feeling most fans of horror get from watching a scary movie or TV show. That slight rush, the combination of anxiety and excitement, the curiosity. For me, books seem to generate that perfectly, whereas horror films and shows merely terrify me to my core without an ounce of enjoyment.
Point is, I enjoyed reading Lurk. Very much, in fact.
It was most certainly a debut novel-there were some logical gaps that occasionally kicked me out of the story, and several unanswered questions that needn’t have been asked for the story to feel complete, but it was a good story nonetheless.
It may have also been that the story resonated with me on a different level; it took place in a college house in Santa Cruz, an experience I’m all-too-familiar with. I graduated from UCSC, lived in a filthy party-house for a time, and enjoyed many a silly shenanigan against my better judgement. I could hop in and see the world of Lurk in a very personal way.
A bunch of college students who feel invincible, except one who can’t shake his own self-doubts, insecurities, and fears. That one, the protagonist, finds himself at a series of crossroads punctuated by a supernatural set of Polaroids that drive him nearly mad. A creepy stalker harassing our protagonist’s crush who, of course, falls for the protagonist’s best friend, all while a too-friendly cop and sex-offender neighbor complicate the lives of our party heroes.
While it was important to the plot, the relationship and personal-image drama didn’t interest me as much as the surreal supernatural elements that coalesced into an overwhelming wave at the climax of the novel. Adam Vine’s skill shone in the scenes he painted of the Valhalla of the party house, of the sordid and wretched lives of the forgotten dead that share a certain something with the protagonist.
Those pages were the ones that demanded my attention unlike any others in the book. The ones that gripped me and threw me into the void where I, too, looked into mouths of mirror-teeth and vacant eyes like the lenses of a super-temporal camera.
I say “protagonist” instead of “hero” because Vine placed an unlovable character at the head of his tale. Pitiable, yes, but not lovable. He is petty, judgmental, arrogant, and self-loathing. He is intelligent, but foolish. He is jealous, but unwilling to change.
All the same, I willingly followed him through his adventure, because I wanted to see what was going to happen. And I was rewarded with the horror I sought.
Adam Vine’s Lurk is a strong debut novel, and definitely worth reading, if horror interests you.
Lurk, by Adam Vine, is published by Forsaken and available on Amazon.