Jago by Kim Newman

Rating 8.0/10
Its powerful and disturbing images lingered in my mind long after I had finally put it down.

In the tiny village of Alder, dreams and nightmares are beginning to come true. Creatures from local legend, science fiction and the dark side of the human mind prowl the town.

Paul, a young academic composing a thesis about the end of the world, and his girlfriend Hazel, a potter, have come to Alder for the summer. Their idea of a rural retreat gradually sours as the laws of nature begin to break down around them. Paul and Hazel are soon drawn into a vortex of fear as violent chaos engulfs the community and the village prepares to reap a harvest of horror.

Originally written by Kim Newman in 1991, Jago still feels fresh. I have really enjoyed his Anno Dracula series and Professor Moriarty and the Hound of the D’Urbervilles. Prior to reading these novels, I was only familiar with Newman as writer for Empire magazine and film buff.

As before, he demonstrates an encyclopaedic knowledge for the horror and film genre. Jago references The Wicker Man, Deliverance, Straw Dogs, HG Wells and many more.

The first third of the novel neatly builds the local legend, the imminent Glastonbury-like festival, a few not-so friendly locals and excitable visitors flooding to the quiet West Country village of Alder.

The mysterious and enigmatic Jago is at the heart of it all, yet Newman skilfully manages restraint, keeping him in the background, a strong presence whose tentacles will soon reach everyone and everything.

This is a multi-perspective novel, told from the point of view of Alison, Danny, festival goer Ferg, the mischievous Gilpin brothers and the Maskell family, among many others. Newman is excellent at inhabiting their thoughts and various speech inflections, granted he is their creator, but it is a special talent who can shift so seamlessly and skilfully from person to person in telling their story.

Jago is packed with startling and bizarre scenes, some are comic, and others are graphically horrific and shocking. In fact, it is sometimes so over the top you just have to laugh, taking everything with a generous pinch of salt.

James Lytton is a compelling heroic character and the gifted Susan also helps to keep the pages turning. It is a long novel with an awful lot going on, which may put off some, but I found there were enough supernatural and pyrotechnic shocks to hold my interest.

This new edition also includes some short stories, so you cannot complain of a lack of content.

It is not my favourite Newman novel, but Jago and its powerful and disturbing images lingered in my mind long after I had finally put it down.

Jago, by Kim Newman. £8.99, 8th March 2013, Titan Books.

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