Let me start with a confession: I don’t really like short stories.
I mean, I just don’t like them as much as I like long stories. To me, they often feel rushed or too thinly sketched and, as a result, I’m just getting into who the people are and what they’re up to – and then it’s all over. I’m also aware that plenty of people love short stories. There are loads of short story collections out there and so I know people must buy them, read them and enjoy them, but whenever I hear that “so and so has a new book out – a collection of short stories”, my heart sinks.
Readers of this blog might know that I am a wee bit of a fan of Adam Nevill’s work. I reviewed his last full-length novel, Lost Girl, here last year. And yes, my heart sank a little when I heard that his new book, Some Will Not Sleep was… a collection of short stories.
But then I started reading them.
Here’s what reading this book felt like. You know those dreams you have, which science insists last only seconds or maybe a minute or two at best, yet inside your head they feel like they last a lifetime? Dreams with situations born from some of your deepest anxieties, with the scenery switching seamlessly between childhood, work and friendship, yet all of them are subtly, yet deeply, deeply wrong? And when you wake, you find they’ve left little vapour trails across your mind’s sky, trails with hooks that snag you through the next eight to twelve hours, spiking adrenaline through your system for no reason other than to remind you just how thin the veneer of everyday normality is?
Yeah. Reading Adam Nevill’s Some Will Not Sleep feels like that. Fragments still haunt me now, a few days after I put the book down… the truly terrifying landlady in “Mother’s Milk”, hiding from monsters as a child (“Pig Thing”), ancient knickknacks stored in chimneys (“The Ancestors”), the suffocation of having your personal space invaded, fully and irrevocably (“Yellow Teeth”). These are stories in which nothing is sacred, nothing is safe, and goodness me, if you like horror and weird fiction then you’re going to absolutely love every damn minute of them!
These short stories are long on terror. Chillingly good.