The Narrows by Travis M. Riddle
Oliver and his friends have returned to their hometown of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their close friend Noah. They each grapple with the loss in their own ways, trying to understand the strange circumstances of their friend’s unexpected death.
While visiting the site where the body was found, Oliver stumbles across a chilling discovery that he knows must be related to what happened to Noah. Wanting to protect his friends from these newfound horrors, Oliver takes it upon himself to venture into the grotesque otherworld known as the Narrows to learn what happened to his friend and find a way to bring him back.
Entering the Narrows is one thing, but will whatever he finds there allow him to leave?
I couldn’t tell whether the stronger vibe here was that of Stranger Things, or IT. A group of friends, a death, an entirely creepy parallel universe of decay - all combined to make The Narrows an eerie and yet somehow relatable plunge into darkness.
Riddle’s real strength here is his characterisation. Each deeply affected by the death of their friend, each dealing with their own stuff, and each as expertly cast as the other, Riddle spends an important amount of time on them, and it pays off. As the characters return to their hometown for their friend’s funeral, we see them visit the places they grew up in, reminiscing and remembering their childhood. It worked really well to reinforce their personalities and motivations, and the mention of Mario Kart 64 definitely tweaked a heartstring or two for me.
I enjoyed the exploration of childhood, and the study of the characters’ relationship changes more than I did the supernatural aspect of the book. It’s a relatively short novel, and the actual level of horror scenes is a small offering in comparison to the heavier feeling of doom and foreshadowing which pervades the majority of the novel. Nevertheless, Riddle’s execution was excellent, his creation and release of tension employed well, and the ambiguous ending was a masterstroke.
My life has recently been overtaken by Stardew Valley, and I imagined the knave as a distorted version of this guy:
Please let me know if that’s somehow a sacrilege; it seemed fitting and amusing at the time.
A definite contender for someone who’d like something quick and creepy - a real must for those who like to analyse relationships, emotion, and nostalgia for things we no longer possess.