As I was making my way through the 693 pages entailing Herbert’s final installation of the David Ash series, I had seriously mixed emotions about reviewing it. When I picked up Ash in the bookshop I did not realise it was part of a series. The spine is completely foiled, which caught my attention, and upon realising it was a James Herbert novel that pretty much settled my decision to purchase it. I suppose there’s a harsh expectation that comes with being well known. I can certainly say that for me personally, this is not his finest.
Of course the story still contains everything needed for it to be a ‘James Herbert’ novel. And this definitely includes some deliciously evil scenes. I won’t give spoilers in this review, but for those who know, the first incident in which Herbert delves into the horrors of Comraich Castle had my stomach dropping and I’m sure I gagged. Unfortunately my criticism is for the story inbetween these scenes. Of which there is a lot!
To summarise, I think the story was just too long. There were details dragged out that lead to nowhere and so many repetitions it began to irk me. It crossed my mind that perhaps there was a word count to be met… It felt odd for such a prolific writer. If a film was made using the novel scene for scene, a lot of it would look exactly the same. Usually I enjoy Herbert’s ability to describe graphic scenes so this is perhaps where it fell flat for me. I kept waiting for a ‘eureka’ moment where I would understand why it was written this way.
As you may have gathered, the moment didn’t come! Because of this, it was hard for me to become lost in the story. I also didn’t emotionally connect with the characters very well. Although there was a lot of story, the insignificance of most of it meant it didn’t really add to the character’s at all.
I’m very saddened to be giving such a negative review. After I finished the book I looked up some reviews and found a lot of people were agreeable with the above points. Some people were critical of the changing point of views, saying it made them confused of what was happening. I would argue it could have changed more frequently, because it would have helped increase the pace of the story. From around 500 pages onwards the story finally feels as though it has a continuous movement which was an immediate improvement.
Not to be all doom and gloom: I was very pleased when I recognised some references to Herbert’s earlier works, which blended with the story smoothly, and despite some criticising that the connections made to the monarchy were in poor taste, I thought the ending words were rather powerful (whether I personally agree with the point Herbert appears to be inferring or not).
I would also add that not every review I have seen for this book has been negative. There are a lot of people who found the whole story exciting. Though to make a slight presumption, I noticed the most positive reviews came from people who were reading Herbert for the first time. A lot of the negativity was a result of disappointed (existing) fans. This is the advice I would give if you are considering giving this book a try.
If you have read Ash, I’d be really interested to know what you thought of the conspiracy theories included and how you felt about the ending?