Review: All the Fiends of Hell by Adam L.G. Nevill

cover of All the Fiends of HellAll the Fiends of Hell by Adam L.G. Nevill
Ritual Limited (April 2, 2024)
346 pages; $15.99 paperback
Reviewed by Dave Simms

With a title such as All the Fiends of Hell, a reader would likely suspect a broad, electric, and brutal story that goes for the throat with no remorse. Adam Nevill changes it up a bit here, harkening back to the tone of The Reddening and The Ritual, departing from the quieter horror of the past couple of entries, The Vessel and Cunning Folk. This might be his Swan Song or The Stand, at least in scope and story. It might also break him into a whole new stratosphere of readers — hopefully.

A very unlikely protagonist awakens from a severe bout of the flu to discover his house empty and the neighborhood devoid of life. Everyone is gone. Front doors wide open as if a rapture occurred (thankfully, it’s nothing as inane as that). Karl, a bland middle-aged man, wanders his southern English town in hope of discovering others — and the answer to the mystery of what happened to society overnight. He finds creatures, slowly, first by sound, then by sight, creeping through stores and streets that at first seem meddlesome, ransacking and trashing shelves and homes. He finds a young boy and girl and boy who have lost their parents, apparently to vicious creatures who appear in different forms, from translucent being to something much, much more frightening.

Karl is ill-equipped to save himself. Protecting a pair of little ones goes way beyond his skill set. As they travel, hoping to find a town untouched by the creatures’ devastation, they learn that anyone who was sick with the flu, and unconscious during that first night, may still be alive.

The horrors, which fly and creep through the countryside (could there be a better name for these monsters? It’s absolutely perfect once the reader is treated to the full experience of Nevill’s nightmare), become more organized in their behavior. The description of these hellacious beings may remind the reader of the classic indescribable creations of Lovecraft by way of King’s “The Mist” crossed with a wholly original depiction that only Nevill could dream up. The gruesome, purposeful acts they inflict on the few who survive might be the scariest things the author has created.

The action within Fiends is like a Dante-esque rollercoaster, letting up on the gas just enough to allow the reader to exhale and absorb the deepening events. Yet it’s the characters which drive home the terror, as Karl shouldn’t be able to survive in this apocalyptic setting, yet manages somehow. The kids elicit something in him, something that might drive them to salvation, or a death too ghoulish to fathom.

Readers might be quick to draw comparisons to the aforementioned titles, but for those familiar with Nevill know that he doesn’t repeat himself or riff of another’s creation. The writing immerses the reader in a dark blanket that tightens, suffocates, but also amazes in its sheer beauty. Writers might lose themselves in the imagery that many wish they could match, yet Nevill holds a special skill that few in horror can match. His talent transcends the genre as usual, yet in this novel, it also marries with an accessibility that drives the story into a kaleidoscopic thrill ride in all the most vicious, disturbing, yet beautiful hues of language.

This one rises above the competition in all the right ways.

PS. Stick around for the end notes. It’s the perfect way to end the experience.

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