A review by Elizabeth Vinton
It must be said that I have read Nightfall with some anticipation after having heard of it’s interesting premise and the high praise for Will Elliott’s first novel The Pilo Family Circus (which I have not yet read, but certainly plan to).
Nightfall is a strange novel. Good strange. Comparable, I believe, to Clive Barker’s style of fantastical horror (think Books of Blood) – not as intimidatingly dark, but with similar bizarre elements, characters, landscapes and events.
It dances between light fantasy and grotesque horror, the novel’s actual governing genre very hard to pin down. Dark Fantasy may in the end be the best description, but that can mislead those who have difficulty reading stories that contain horror elements, especially if they are graphic in nature.
And the horror can be very intense and stomach churning when it does appear.
The protagonist of the novel, Aden Keenan, begins his journey by becoming aware of the fact that he is dead by his own hand, and is lying quite uncomfortably in a bathtub in an unfamiliar house. This realisation whilst being a matter of a very grim nature, has moments of touching comedy, spiralling into a comical, and gruesome encounter with the first citizens of the odd world he has entered.
Despite not knowing very much about Aden, especially his past ‘live’ self , you find yourself liking him, and in fact quite a few of the darker characters are endearing in their own way also.
The world that opens up before Aden is epic in scale, and stunning in its description. Various buildings and landscapes are characters in their own right, greatly adding to the atmosphere.
The video gamer in me did find her-self early on picturing the story in game format, a desire developing to wander around the towns and peek in the windows of the houses not explored by Aden.
The plot of the story launches into something both painful and beautiful, and for some people, very personal too. I did not find the resolution all that surprising, but some may and so I am reluctant to elaborate on Aden’s discoveries about himself and the world his death led him to. It is important that the reader travels along with Aden for the story to be fully felt – and I mean felt.
I can say that amongst the comic book style bad guys, good guys and amoral guys there is intense pathos, which left me wondering about the author and experiences he or someone close to him have had. This story felt in the end like a cathartic purge, maybe it wasn’t intended as such.
I think one of the highest compliments you can pay a story is wanting more of it – more of the world, learning more of its history, of the main players in its development, of the towns and townsfolk.
The novel felt almost like a reasonably complex index of places, people and events of a much larger story, well beyond Aden’s experiences. I found some of the details on aspects of the story a bit sparse for my liking. Considering what takes place due to his existence, perhaps this is styled deliberately and any more detail would detract from ultimately what the story is about.
In the end it was a strange but enjoyable experience to read. I believe readers who try it will find this too, as long as you are prepared to go along with a novel that swaps genres (sometimes from chapter to chapter, an aspect I really loved), and don’t mind finding many questions left very much unanswered.
Each reader will be left haunted by a different aspect of it.
Nightfall is an imaginative and moving novel. Although I felt it was missing some further descriptions/information that would help the reader immerse more fully into the world, it definitely grows on you over time once you have read it, and I can see myself re-reading it in the future to explore elements of the story further.