Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review: "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" by Iain Reid

Some books simply strike a chord with you. You can’t help it. Even if it’s a terribly flawed work, you can’t help but see a little bit of yourself in it. Thankfully, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the deliciously and infectiously creepy debut novel from Iain Reid, is not one of those works. It affected me rather deeply, in a way that makes me feel more than a bit changed, and yes, even a bit scared too, but it did such a thing to me in the guise of an expertly routed thriller that grabs you by the throat and quietly whispers nasty things into your ear. On the front flap, it compares it to two recent novels that bridge the gap between the literary and thriller genre: Michel Faber’s Under the Skin and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. While those are two of my favorite books, each with its own nasty surprises, I didn’t think too much about them over the two sittings I spent with this book. What really came to mind, especially since this author seems to where its horror genre roots proudly on its sleeve, were the novels of English horror author Ramsey Campbell and a handful of Harlan Ellison short stories; quiet horror stories with dread that covertly infects the reader until the final, heart-stopping twist. This is one of the best horror novels I have read in such a long time, one that doesn’t have a drop of blood (actually, just one), and relies heavily on mood, atmosphere and an ever increasing nightmarish reality. It is going to be hard to review such a book without spoiling anything, because the deeper this book gets, the clearer its intentions are, but I will try my best. It starts on a dark country road on an impossibly dark night. Our unnamed female narrator is in a car being driven by her boyfriend Jake. They are on their way to meet Jake’s parents for the first time. Off in the distance, she sees an abandoned farmhouse with what seems like a brand new swing set out in front. She asks about this but Jake deflects her questions. From this, we know something is not right, and we know whatever is going on is disturbing and uncomfortable, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how sad it was going to be. We learn a little about our unnamed narrator, we learn she intends to dump Jake soon, we learn she met him at a trivia night at a pub and we learns she has a past of her own, and a story she tells of waking up as a young kid to find a man standing at her window is chilling rendered. The story goes deeper and deeper, until someone finds themselves locked in an old labyrinthine school, where this book’s dark and somber heart is laid bare. This book was a timely read for me, as it put me face to face with some problems of my own, the areas where I need to grow but seem destined to be stuck in. While I won’t go as far as to say it exorcised me, I did find a perverse comfort and sense of self-reflection in its final pages. Even if this boom doesn’t do that for, it is a brilliant and impressively laid out thriller with teeth and a surprising and astounding emotional impact.

Rating: 5/5

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