Desperate to attract subscribers to his fledgling website, ‘Journey to the Dark Side’, ex-adrenalin junkie and slacker Simon Newman hires someone to guide him through the notorious Cwm Pot caves, so that he can film the journey and put it on the internet. With a tragic history, Cwm Pot has been off-limits for decades, and unfortunately for Simon, the guide he’s hired is as unpredictable and dangerous as the watery caverns that lurk beneath the earth. After a brutal struggle for survival, Simon barely escapes with his life, but predictably, the gruesome footage he managed to collect down in the earth’s bowels goes viral. Ignoring the warning signs of mental trauma, and eager to capitalize on his new internet fame, Simon latches onto another escapade that has that magic click-bait mix of danger and death – a trip to Everest. But up above 8000 feet, in the infamous Death Zone, he’ll need more than his dubious morals and wits to guide him, especially when he uncovers the truth behind a decade-old tragedy – a truth that means he might not be coming back alive. A truth that will change him – and anyone who views the footage he captures – forever.
This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Lotz, plus it’s the first I’ve read to do with natural, mountainess horror… and I have to say I really enjoyed it! It instantly pulls you into the story, and the writing and setting instantly creates such an atmospheric, creepy and chilling feeling.
You do have to suspend belief for this novel. A man going down to do some caving is plausible, but the idea that Simon could climb Mount Everest after no professional training is just not believable. This didn’t bother me an awful lot as I was so involved with the characters stories and encaptured by the fear of the situations, but I know it can be an issue for some people.
I’m stunned at how claustrophobic and breathless this book made me feel. When we’re down in the caves with Simon, straight off, I found myself squirming and panicking as we made our way deeper into the abyss. Then those feelings were brought back to me again as we were scaling Everest and the air was getting thinner and thinner. Lotz really has a way of writing horrifying experiences! She’s also good at adding in humour to parts of the story that others would make severely intense, and I liked that we had that chance to have a bit of a mental break from all the dramatics.
I won’t lie and say this was the most perfect book in the world, because it isn’t. I was disappointed by the final climb up Everest. It all happened to quickly, I was stunned to turn the page and find we were back down at ABC camp. It wasn’t at all as climactic as what had happened down in the caves, which seemed weird, as this was our main event! But, the climb up Everest feels like much more like a means to an end.
Lotz is a master at getting you attached to characters. Simon was witty and he was tragic, by the end I felt like I knew him completely and to be honest, I think I was in love with him a little bit. When we get to the end, that chilling, haunting end, I very nearly shed a tear. I was so attached to his character, I felt like he was worth crying for, but somehow I kept my wits about me (very unlike me!)
Like I just mentioned, the ending is one of the best I’ve read. For me, it was everything I wanted it to be, and everything I didn’t want it to be. It was raw and terrifying. I felt a little choked up by it all.
Overall, I think I’ve discovered a new type of book I like! I like this horror-in-the-wilderness feel so I’m definitely going to be checking out more books like this! (I just bought myself Ararat by Christopher Golden) Please, if you read the synopsis and thought “hmm, that sounds like it could be good”, rush out to get this! I know Lotz’s other books have garnered pretty average to poor reviews, but after this, I’m going to have to check out her other stuff.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me an advanced reader’s copy of this book.
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