Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill
Pan Books (May 2010) | Paperback, 400 pages | Horror

When starting Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill, I saw a book with the potential to be a great horror story, with a high class apartment block that contains one abandoned residence that no one will enter.

The book begins well, with young woman Apryl visiting London after her great aunt’s death. Her family has inherited all of Aunt Lillian’s possessions, which includes an expensive apartment in the exclusive area of Knightsbridge. It is here that Apryl discovers her Aunt’s vintage clothing from the forties, as well as a host of vintage furniture. As a lover of all things vintage, Apryl is in her element. That is, until she discovers some disturbing diaries written by her Aunt that document her life since the end of the Second World War, revealing some shocking details about Barrington House apartment complex.

The other character in the novel is Seth, one of the night porters at Barrington House, who has to deal with the complaints from the many elderly residents. It is one of these complaints that send him to the door of apartment 16, as despite lying empty the residents claim to hear noises coming from within its walls. There is a filthy stench in the corridor outside the apartment, and Seth is reluctant to go in. He knows that going in there could change him, and he may not leave as sane as when he went in…

Apryl’s perusals of her Aunt’s diaries send her in search of a mysterious fascist painter whom her Aunt seemed to have been associated with, whose work has sparked a high level of criticism. His mentality was drawn into question, as his surrealist works are disturbing, featuring distorted human images that cannot be forgotten after they are first seen.

The chapters alternate between Apryl and Seth, with each being a completely different character. I liked this contrast between the two, as it made reading the chapters more interesting, but I found myself looking forward to Apryl’s side of the story much more than Seth’s.

She was an interesting main character, as she had a drive to discover the truth about her Aunt that leads her down a very dangerous path, but she doesn’t give up. I liked her interest in all things vintage, but I also felt that the connection to her Aunt was a little tenuous as she had never met her and yet was obsessed with finding out what happened in her past. There is very little character development, as we know little about her life in America, and her love life is merely hinted at, as if there is something significant there beyond the reader’s reach.

As for Seth, his character undergoes somewhat of a transformation, as he slowly descends into madness, or is it possession? It all begins after he enters apartment 16, as he starts seeing a hooded teenage boy everywhere that he goes. At first he thinks this is only coincidence, but Seth is the only one that can see this boy, and the youth soon starts giving him orders to follow on behalf of the ‘master’. I really didn’t like Seth as a character, as he seemed desperate and all too willing to participate in dark activities.

As mentioned before, I felt that the plot of this book had great potential to create a brilliant horror story, but that it wasn’t told as well as it could have been. The scenes with Seth are particularly confusing, as it can often be hard to work out what is actually going on with him, and the story of the artist seemed a little too far-fetched. There were so many unexplained questions throughout the book that still weren’t resolved at the end, and I felt that there were too many loose ends. I understand the need for leaving a little mystery at the end of a horror to keep the reader guessing, but this book had gaping plot holes.

Overall I wasn’t very impressed with this book, and I found it to be a slow read, especially the chapters concerning Seth. If this book had been solely about Apryl then I think it would have been better, but Seth’s chapters just aggravated me. There was a shocking moment towards the end of the book, but it’s just left alone after one chapter and not explored. Despite some of the horror scenes the writing didn’t leave me feeling scared, as there was very little suspense created.

VERDICT:

For a horror novel there was a lot of potential for a good plot here, but I felt that it got lost amidst the writing, and that the book’s message got confused. I did like how the chapters alternated between Seth and Apryl, but I was expecting them to come together long before they actually did, which disappointed me. I didn’t feel that there was very much character development, and many of the scenes were confusing, with little explanation. The amount of unanswered questions was also too much for me.

RATING: 

ADAM NEVILL ONLINE
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Rebecca

A book-loving student, currently studying English at university, whose favourite genres vary from crime to paranormal to romance! Slightly obsessed about books, will extensively spend time making sure no spines or pages are creased before purchasing.

6 Comments


Melanie December 21, 2012 at 9:11 am

I keep seing this book come up in reviews and was hoping it would be good, even though Horror isn’t my favourite genre. Too bad it was so disappointing. Its almost worse when a book shows promise and disapoints then shows no promise at all!

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Gemma December 21, 2012 at 9:30 am

From your review, I can see the wasted opertunity to have a really spine tingling book. I hate when that happens.

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Laura December 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm

What a shame, as you say, lots of potential for a good horror book, it just doesn’t quite make the mark. well done for finishing it!

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Ryan December 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm

You had me wanting to read this myself for a bit, but then I finished your review, and I know think I will pass. Too bad though, it sounds like it had the potential to be good.

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Joy March 15, 2013 at 4:53 am

I couldn’t disagree more. I found Apartment 16 to be a compelling read with no pacing problems and an easily understandable plot. It is true that the romance component is played down but I feel that was done in order that the horrors should be centre stage. It moves along nicely with a feel of suffocating urban malaise that just gets thicker and darker as the book continues. I also appreciated the Jamesian touches, such as the ‘Mezzotint’-style changing paintings and the extracts from Lilian’s diary. It’s also one of the only horror novels I’ve ever read that takes art seriously and I loved the Wyndham Lewis references.

It’s not a perfect book – in one of the chapters near the end there’s a fairly obvious infodump, and there’s a slight sense Nevill is trying to cram too many horrors into one climax. But I warmly recommend this book – and the later Nevill novels ‘The Ritual’ and ‘Last Days’ – to any fan of horror.

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Kim May 11, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Totally agree with the blogger’s review. I’m so irritated with this book that I googled reviews and this website came up.

I’m half way through the book and it’s one of the rare times I think I will just give up. The review nails it on the head re:Seth. It’s not interesting or spine tingling, it’s now just monotonous. That last time I felt this way about a book was in 2007 reading this rubbish Book entitled ‘Labyrinth’ by an author who must have a dad in the publishing world, Kate Moss.

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