Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill

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.


Filed under Adam Nevill, Book Group, Pan MacMillan, Review

12 responses to “Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill

  1. Louise

    I used to devour Point Horror when I was a teen, in fact I still have a few copies, Trick or Treat, The Boyfriend and Funhouse springs to mind. From there I moved on to Christopher Pike, Richard Laymon and Stephen King. I do love horror, but I’m just not easily scared. I’m still waiting for a book to scare the life out of me and this doesn’t sounds like it’s going to be the one, shame as I’ve had it on my tbr for ages, think it’ll stay there a bit longer now!

    • I wouldn’t want to put anyone off this book at all Louise. I think I am more of a psychological horror fan rather than a ‘spell it all out and make you feel a bit sick and nasty’ horror fan.

      I really remember The Boyfriend and The Beach House. I wish I still had some I would love to go back and see if they still freaked me out!

  2. If you’re looking for a decent horror novel, I would whole-heartedly recommend ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ by Joe Hill, simply because it managed to take me completely by surprise (which is rather difficult with most horror books I read) and it made the mundane horror scarier than the supernatural stuff. His short story collection is pretty damn good as well. (Fan-girl speech over now).

    • I had ‘Heart Shaped Box’ Hayley but it got cleared out at some point because I just didnt think that I would ever get around to it, but now that you have recommended it (and I would like to try more horror fiction) I might keep my eyes peeled at the library.

  3. I was crazy about horror when I was younger. I still keep a few horror books on hand for when I’m in the right kind of mood. The cover on this book is such an attention-grabber. It’s really too bad the story doesn’t quite live up to the cover’s awesomeness.

  4. novelinsights

    Sounds a bit hammed up 🙂 Shame, it’s always annoying when your book group choice doesn’t turn out wonderful!

  5. The cover of the book looks scary and awesome. Looking at the cover page i thought the story must be damn scary but after reading it i didn’t find it too scary. It was OK.

    • I just thought it was a bit ridiculous, and then rather sick making if I am honest. Didn’t do much for me and as time has gone on I haven’t thought about it. I wanted to be scared in bed, instead I just felt a bit queasy.

  6. Pingback: Ghostly Tales, Can They Still Scare Us? | Savidge Reads

  7. Pingback: Nevill, Adam: Apartment 16 (Formerly known as “Down Here With the Rest of Us”) (2010) | humanitysdarkerside

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