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Nate Kenyon ‘Sparrow Rock’ Review


Written by: James Keen

“Everyone you have ever loved in your life becomes a part of your soul. They never leave. They’re always inside you…and you can bring them out whenever you want” -Sparrow Rock.

Apocalyptic scenarios whether they be literary or cinematic are seemingly ever popular, generation upon generation. From H.G Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’, through to King’s ‘The Stand’, McCarthy’s ‘The Road’, McCammon’s ‘Swan Song’ and the current multi-media proliferation of by and large critically lauded ‘end of the world’ ruminations as exemplified by ‘The Walking Dead’ and the looming Max Brooks cinematic adaptation of his speculative novel ‘World War Z’. The theme is an enduring one and when handled properly, it still has unique and powerfully resonant things to say about the human condition. Nate Kenyon’s ‘Sparrow Rock’, is most definitely notable amongst those creative endeavours, as it is a novel that deserves to stand with the best of them as a high watermark of this particularly grim sub-genre of horror fiction.

Told from the first person perspective of Pete Taylor, an endearingly optimistic teenager who laments at one point in Kenyon’s narrative, “when you’re the class clown and the end of the world comes, you’re kind of out of a job” who’s fortunate to be a part of a collective group of his peers that manage to escape the mass nuclear bombing of his home town of White Falls. Thanks to his friend ‘Big Sue’ and their need for a less conspicuous location for the six of them so they can safely partake of a few joints they find themselves in a fallout shelter built by Big Sue’s grandfather, and as luck would have it avoid the apparent night-time annihilation of the human race. As Pete puts it, “We were nothing but a bunch of horny teenagers looking for a place to smoke and drink and bitch about our shitty lives”. Though saved from death and comfortably ensconced in a multi-roomed shelter that is well-stocked with provisions and running water, Kenyon through his narrative muse, ominously foreshadows the coming events, “What eventually came for us was nothing like what we’d expected, but a nightmare that  was a hundred times worse”.

Kenyon’s tale, while it takes some time to build up its narrative ‘steam’ when it does, it’s pretty much relentless. There’s no shortage of fearsomely delineated atmospheric spectacle here but at the heart of Kenyon’s text is an intriguing desire to explore a group-dynamic, revealing along the way much about the nature of jealousy, love and identity. At one point, Pete notes introspectively, “What is it about isolation that brings certain people to life. What does it say about them?” Kenyon’s greatest achievement here is the demonstration here of his prowess as an eloquent writer whose descriptive abilities encourages the reader to genuinely care for his characters, to feel an empathy with their increasingly desperate and gloomy plight. While the author cautiously and steadily ratchets up the narrative tension to near unbearable levels he does so with an even-tempered approach to his craft. Grue and gore there may be here but it’s deftly implemented and always in service of its  suspenseful plot without being silly or gratuitous.

Though this is most definitely a horror novel, there are elements of science fiction (certain strands of the plot are, only here and there, uncomfortably reminiscent of Michael Chrichton’s ‘Prey’) and a neatly threaded psychological sub-text that at times recalls Patrick McGrath’s novel, ‘Spider’. It’s also a work that deserves to be read more than once because of it’s cleverly constructed conceit. Stephen King -who Kenyon’s literary output has been compared to (as has just about every other author working in the genre since the early eighties) – once observed, “Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.” This is certainly true of ‘Sparrow Rock’, a gruesome, emotionally affecting and vividly depicted apocalyptic tale of terror with a truly gratifying resolution.

Order it here!

Rating: 4.5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

1 Comment on Nate Kenyon ‘Sparrow Rock’ Review

  1. Sometimes the really well written novels slip right by me….Nice job James….vitina


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