Sunday, October 17, 2021

REVIEW: No One Gets Out Alive (book) by Adam Nevill

No One Gets Out Alive is horror. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes mild spoilers.


The place Stephanie has just moved to is horrible, but it's not like she has many options. Jobs are hard to come by and all of the ones she's been able to find are temporary. It wouldn't be a good idea to go back to Ryan, her ex-boyfriend, and she definitely can't go back to her stepmother's house. This is the cheapest housing she's been able to find - it's either this or being homeless.

However, her experiences at 82 Edgehill Road quickly have her reweighing her options. On her first night, she can feel and hear presences in her room. Things get progressively worse, but she can't afford to go anyplace else if she doesn't get her deposit back, and Knacker McGuire, her landlord, is unlikely to part with any of it.

Supposedly there are other lodgers, all women, but although Stephanie hears people and the kitchen and bathroom are both shared spaces, she never sees anyone except Knacker. Just as she finds herself thinking that maybe she can get used to strange noises and crying in the night, the situation changes again and Stephanie's horror is renewed. At this point, however, it's too late to leave.

Content warnings for this book: rape, violence, gore (some particularly nasty stuff related to several characters' mouths), and probably other things I've forgotten about.

When I saw the trailer for the Netflix movie adaptation, I thought it looked good but also very much like something I wouldn't be able to watch, so I decided to read the book it was based on instead. Now that I've read the book, talked to my sister (who watched the movie but hasn't read the book), and rewatched the trailer, I'd say that the adaptation probably changed a lot. At the very least, it only adapted two thirds of the book - I asked my sister how the book's time jump was handled, and she had no idea what I was talking about.

It was frustrating how many times Stephanie talked herself out of just leaving, but at the same time I understood why she stayed. She really didn't have a lot of options other than homelessness, and if she went that route, clawing her way out would be next to impossible. She kept getting slivers of hope dangled in front of her - all she had to do was make it through a few days in this place and then she'd be able to figure out something else. She didn't know how ugly things would get, or how quickly it would happen.

I was very confused by the pacing. It looked like things were going to resolve themselves, for better or worse (probably worse), well before the end of the book. I wondered whether the story would morph from "horrible violence against women with nowhere else to go" into a revenge story, since after a while it seemed like several of the humans were actually far worse than any of the ghosts. Instead, I got a time jump that was so jarring I kept expecting it to be revealed as Stephanie's final delusions before death.

Up until the time jump, there were some extremely horrific moments, although I was relieved and glad that the author opted not to show certain things on-page (for example, the rapes, which Stephanie heard but didn't witness). After the time jump, the story took a break from suspense to give readers a history of the house and the things that happened there. It did eventually tie back into and resolve the horror aspects and what Stephanie went through, but it still felt like a huge shift.

As frustrating as it was, I thought the first two thirds of the book, in the house, was the strongest, although the last third had some good moments too. It's amazing how creepy the discovery of a bit of dirt in an otherwise clean home can be. I also liked Stephanie's determination to focus on the other victims, rather than just on the men who killed them.

This took me a while to get into, but when I did I read most of it over the course of just a couple days. The ending was a bit over-the-top and, like I said, the sudden shift in the last third was extremely jarring, but overall I thought this was pretty good. I may try another one of Nevill's works at some point. 

It was weird reading this so soon after Riley Sager's Lock Every Door - the heroines were very similar in several ways, enough that I occasionally mixed up aspects of their backstories. Both of them ended up in buildings that were, in different ways, traps.

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