Ash by James Herbert

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Ash by James Herbert

0230706959.jpg
Buy Ash by James Herbert at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: This is a pretty hefty book, especially by Herbert's usual standards, but there's plenty in here to keep a reader entertained, although it's perhaps not quite horrific enough for fans of the genre.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 600 Date: August 2012
Publisher: MacMillan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0230706958

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I've read and enjoyed most of James Herbert's books up until now. Indeed, he's one of the few authors to have genuinely scared me, at the point I realised the location of an army of rats in Domain was between the tube station I was getting off at and the office I had to walk to. Herbert's two previous books featuring parapsychologist David Ash were pretty good, so I was looking forward to the third, simply titled Ash.

There are strange goings on at Comraich Castle, with the normal poltergeist type activities of cold spots in rooms and the lights inexplicably dimming having escalated into a resident being found pinned to the wall of his room by his own blood and innards. David Ash is sent in to investigate, but he is warned that he must work alone and in secrecy, as whilst some of the residents of Comraich Castle are not ghosts, they are considered long dead by the outside world and that world must never know of their continued existence.

The basic idea behind the story is intriguing and the mixture of fiction with real life names and the stretching of fact works rather well. Although the main focus of the story is on the job Ash is at Comraich Castle to do, I found that the little snippets of the residents' back stories added a little bit extra and I found myself enjoying those minor diversions just as much as I enjoyed the main story.

Herbert usually writes at a fairly frantic pace and the same is true here. There is none of the waiting game that seems to happen in TV shows like Most Haunted, as Herbert keeps enough plot strands going that he can skip between them to keep the pace high. Ash seems to be an attractive force for the evil inhabiting Comraich Castle, as if it realises that he's there to cause trouble. This results in him tangling with all sorts of nasty beings, from wildcats to spiders to flying battleaxes. The human forces in charge of the Castle are also a little suspicious of the questions he keeps asking as well, as David Ash can't let any secret, real or paranormal, remain hidden.

There were a couple of aspects of the book that I felt took the edge off it slightly for me. Ash's relationship with Delphine was played up to a little too much and many of his feelings towards her were based in his back story which relies on the reader being an existing James Herbert fan to appreciate fully. This was only a minor issue for me, as I'd read the books prior to this one, but for a newcomer to James Herbert, the foreknowledge required may take the edge off what turned out to be a significant, if more developed than it perhaps deserved, sub-plot.

I was also slightly unhappy with some of the events towards the end of the book. James Herbert is a renowned horror writer for a reason, but towards the end the book seemed to veer a little away from horror towards a more Hollywood action film style ending. Given that there was a fair amount of imagination required to meld semi-factual pieces with fiction throughout most of the book, parts of the ending were a bit of a disappointment. The pace certainly held up, but I wasn't entirely convinced by the direction it took.

It was the pace and the basic idea that kept me reading more so than the execution. This is Herbet's longest book and it feels like he's run into the same problem as Stephen King and Dean Koontz before him in that longer isn't always better. That said, apart from David Ash's back story, this isn't a bad introduction to James Herbert's work, as it has enough to keep a reader interested and it's not going to be too unsettling to someone unused to the horror genre. But for the experienced horror reader that I am, these were the same things that took the edge off it slightly.

If you like a little more horror in your horror novel, Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett isn't a bad place to go to.

Buy Ash by James Herbert at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ash by James Herbert at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Ash by James Herbert at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ash by James Herbert at Amazon.com.

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