Book Review: Wyrd and Other Derelictions
What’s it like to be the first on the “scene of the crime”? What’s it like to visit the living vacuum of traumatic events; places empty of humanity yet brimming with the electrified air of horrifying aftershock. Or maybe they’re not so empty. Was that a thump upstairs? Did that shadow just move? Why is there a foot laying here, and where is the rest of the body? Is something out there?
SUMMARY: Derelictions are weird tales that tell of aftermaths and of new and liminal places. Each location has witnessed catastrophe, infernal visitations, or unearthly transformations. But across these landscapes of murder, genocide and invasion, crucial evidence remains. And it is the task of the reader to sift through ruin and ponder the residual enigma, to behold and wonder at the full horror that was visited upon mankind.
This collection of derelictions (i.e. stories of abandonment) is experimental writing in its truest form. With each tale Adam Nevill places us in a story post-climax, or a sort of unresolved or unfinished epilogue. Something truly devastating has happened in this setting, but all we’re given are grim clues. There are no characters and no dialogue. Only descriptions of scenes and a narrative style that feels like someone is leading you through the chaos. You are intrigued, you are disturbed, and you’re not quite sure what is going on.
The thing about such an approach to “storytelling” is that it’s incredibly risky. It’s automatically going to put most readers into a love-it-or-hate-it camp from the very first couple of stories. But the author is discerning enough to know that, and in fact he is intentionally playing with form and expression. There is an author’s note at the back of the book where he explains the germ for the collection, and what other avenues of thought and experimentation came out of that. It’s all very compelling, but does it work?
For me, at least, the answer is a strong yes! Both the wordsmith and the horror lover in me absolutely enjoyed what Nevill is trying to accomplish here, and I think he manages to knock it out of the park. The collection is a mash up of cult/alien/creature stories, all very strange and eerie in their telling. Though follow a similar narrative style, they are all different enough to stand on their own. Each has at least one scene (usually the ending) that will haunt me for a long time. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and engaging; a vivid prose style that carries the brunt of the ploy and does it well, even without characters and even without dialogue.
My only complaint, though not a complaint really, is that the nature of the stories and the description-heavy writing style are such that each takes time to get through. They require slower reading and more processing. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make reading them all back to back less of a satisfying endeavor. My recommendation would be to space them out over a period of weeks, or even one a month. They all deserve to ruminate in your mind, so give them the space to breath.
Again, this is very much a love it or leave it collection. Many readers I trust absolutely hated it, while others were enamored by it. Clearly I’m in the second camp, but I’m curious to hear what others think.
All the stories were gems in my opinion, and I loved them all for different reasons. To rank them would be to degrade them, but regardless if I had to (sorry Adam) it may look something like this:
“Hold the World…”
“Turning the Tide”
Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you want to learn more about Adam Nevill and his work then check out his website (https://www.adamlgnevill.com/) or follow him and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/adamlgnevill/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AdamLGNevill).