Lost Girl by Adam Nevill
How far will he go to save his daughter? How far will he go to get revenge?
It’s 2053 and climate change has left billions homeless and starving – easy prey for the pandemics that sweep across the globe, scything through the refugee populations. Easy prey, too, for the violent gangs and people-smugglers who thrive in the crumbling world where ‘King Death’ reigns supreme.
The father’s world went to hell two years ago. His four-year-old daughter was snatched from his garden when he should have been watching. The moments before her disappearance play in a perpetual loop in his mind. But the police aren’t interested; amidst floods, hurricanes and global chaos, who cares about one more missing child? Now it’s all down to him to find her, him alone . . .
More apocalyptic fiction, but this time from the mind of Adam Nevill. Against the backdrop of a swiftly escalating ecological disaster, comes the intimate story of a family being torn apart by a kidnapping.
The main character, a father (who is never explicitly named), is utterly focused on a single task. He will stop at nothing to find his daughter. In many respects this novel is a study of his character. The further he travels, the longer he takes on his journey, the more the narrative strips away elements of his being. His attitudes and limits evolve (or perhaps that should be devolve?) throughout the weeks and months that pass. The person who exists at the end of this exploration is markedly different from the character who we meet at the beginning. It is fascinating to see the transformation that occurs.
A word of warning, it is likely that some readers will find this particular novel too much of a trigger. I have a friend who can’t read anything that involves violence, or the threat of violence, towards children. I don’t imagine that this is the book for them. Personally, I think Nevill does an excellent job of portraying dark and, oft times, difficult subject matter with a delicate touch. The actions and reactions between the characters never feel over the top or staged.
This book will, however, most definitely promote a certain amount of introspection. What would you do to save your loved ones? How much do they mean to you and are there lines you would be prepared to cross? It would be a hard soul who didn’t find themselves asking these sorts of questions after reading Lost Girl.
Yes, there are flashes of extreme violence dotted throughout the narrative but, from my perspective at least, Lost Girl feels far more concerned in exploring the psychological horror that the father is experiencing. He has given up everything in pursuit of his daughter. His physical and mental health are both deteriorating, but he is consumed with the thought that if he can just find her everything will be ok. He is longing for that picture perfect storybook happy ending. Delusional, perhaps, but it really makes all the heartbreak and sorrow he is experiencing feel that much more honest. The seemingly endless mental anguish he is forced to endure is often harrowing, but in the same breath utterly riveting.
The apocalyptic content in this novel is in some ways is almost inconsequential. You could entirely remove any mention of it and still have an absolutely engrossing tale. The one thing that the environmental cataclysm does do is provide an additional sense of urgency to the father’s already fraught search. The most frightening/horrific thing about Nevill’s description of the world ending? It all sounds so bloody familiar, it feels completely real. Escalations in violent crime, an ongoing refugee crisis, uncontrollable pandemics, political and economic land grabs. These could all be symptoms pulled from the headlines of just about newspaper today.
As with No One Gets Out Alive, Adam Nevill has proven he has a real knack when it comes to defying my expectations. His novels have this delightfully dark tone, and the narrative tends to veer off in unexpected ways. I’ve come to expect that I don’t know what to expect with his writing. I love it when you discover an author whose work is defiantly challenging and forces you to think about your view of the world.
Every time I see Adam Nevill at any book related event he appears to be a happy, smiley, thoroughly well adjusted chap. I think I finally understand why. All the fears that would normally fester internally goes into his writing. It must be a hugely cathartic experience to expel all those personal demons. Damn it all, it works for me. It makes for first class horror fiction.
I remember years ago reading the masterful V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. One of the things that has always stayed with me was the premise behind this classic. In a handful of paragraphs in graphic novel’s introduction, David Lloyd does a perfect job of deftly picking apart the need for a society to have dark fiction. You can find the entire thing here. Why do I mention this? The grim yet engrossing tone of Lost Girl struck that self same chord with me. This isn’t comfortable entertainment. This is a novel that is going to leave a mark on you long after you’re done. Like V for Vendetta, this is a story for people who don’t switch off the news.
Lost Girl is published by Macmillan and is available now. Highly recommended.