Simon Clark

Nailed by the Heart

This is less a novel, more a promising film script. No, that's not entirely fair, for this is an excellent debut that builds skillfully on a branch of horror that has existed for a long time. A very contemporary feel, but with echoes of William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland and H.P. Lovecraft, and a definite touch of the cinematic via Romero, The Wickerman and John Carpenter's The Fog. So it's not the most original novel you'll ever read but it's built on a solid foundation, which is more than can be said for many.

It opens with a young family moving to a coastal town, and settling in the local rundown seafort. With the intention of doing it up and living in it permanently. It's not before the strangeness of their surroundings begin seeping in, with furtive villagers dropping hints yet unwilling to reveal the secret behind their little community. It starts quietly, deceptively so, and Clark is willing to wait before unleashing the shocks.

But unleash them he does, and before long the dark secret behind this cut off community begins to expose itself. At the same time, the family find themselves drawn further into the community, until they stand together against the onslaught from the sea. It's not unexpected, so I'm not giving much away, but neither can I get through this review without mentioning one thing: zombies, lots of zombies. Yes they're here, and in spades, but there's method to their madness and it's no mysterious space virus that rose them from their watery grave.

So is this a worthwhile addition to the once over-populated horror market? The answer is a resounding yes. Clark's prose is clean and crisp, literate and very readable, pulp sensibilities but no hack and slash mentality. He builds tension with prose rather than gore, psychological horror that explores the siege mentality, and the despair and hopelessness found when facing an unstoppable foe.

Read it for fun, don't take it too seriously, but Clark is definitely one to watch. If only the movies were this good.

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