Travis M. Riddle’s work graces this blog for the second time, this time in an entirely different genre. I remember enjoying the writing of Balam, Spring, but there was a big part of me that wasn’t sure how he would come across in modern horror after only reading cosy high fantasy. Either way, I liked the synopsis and was curious to see how it would pan out.
The Narrows follows Oliver and his childhood friends as they return to their home town of Shumard and prepare to attend the funeral of a former close friend, Noah. Haunted by the unexpected nature of his late friend’s death, Oliver finds himself drawn to the spot where he died. Whilst there, he sees the grotesque display of a man dissolving in the middle of the road, and is convinced that this is somehow connected to Noah’s death. Now facing the prospect that their friend may have been shielding them from something terrible, he decides to investigate further.
The easiest way to discuss The Narrows is probably to tackle the horror elements separately from the slice of life, coping with grief stuff. I’ll tackle the everyday stuff first, as Riddle really nails it. The thing that I find interesting about the regular world story-line is that it could probably stand by itself without the horror elements, had Riddle wished to do so. The grief expressed by various characters about Noah’s death is really complex and multi-faceted, as one would expect from dealing with the death of someone who used to be a friend. Davontae probably has the least complex reaction, sadness at the loss of a friend tempered by the distancing of their relationship. Sophia understandably decides that he stopped being their friend long before and so refuses to attend the funeral entirely. But, being the viewpoint character, Oliver gets the most interesting reaction, which is anger at his former friend’s apparent abandonment, but also a desperation for his subpar behaviour to be vindicated in some way. I can genuinely say that I would have read an entire novel of just those three dealing with grief.
That’s not to say that the horror elements don’t work. They definitely do, and it’s some of the more disconcerting and unusual imagery that I’ve seen in a while. The first sign of the supernatural is someone full on melting into orange fungi-vomit, so it doesn’t pull any punches. At the same time though, there’s not much explained about how the Narrows of the title actually works. In another genre, that would probably have bugged me, but I think it works in horror. The idea that this other world exists and there may be no real rhyme or reason behind it, it’s just something that the protagonists have to deal with now.
A great novel about grief and losing touch with childhood and the people in it, with a truly uncanny horror world lurking in the background. Definitely something that I would recommend to someone looking for some indie horror. 4.5/5
Next review: K-ON! College by kakifly