Book Review: The Last Days of Jack Sparks
BOOK REVIEW: THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS, BY JASON ARNOPP
I’LL BEGIN this the easy way: If you love horror, read The Last Days of Jack Sparks. If you want to know why, and you have a moment, read on…
I’m used to writing reviews. What I am not used to, though, is finding a review hard to write. When I read The Last Days of Jack Sparks recently, I knew this would be a tough one to summarise and describe. For how do you define and categorise a novel that seemingly has it all?
First and foremost, I am an avid horror fan. When I spotted The Last Days of Jack Sparks on Amazon and read the synopsis, I wanted to give it a go. I spotted words in the description that are an instant hook to me: exorcisms, demons, death and the occult. Make no mistake – this book has layer upon layer of darkness. The horror fan in me was more than satisfied; there was one moment when I looked away from the page, because I was nervous about the next scene. This novel has atmosphere and creepiness in droves. It doesn’t stop there though, oh no. Jack Sparks has so much more. It is quirky. It is funny – yes, I laughed out loud many times. It is a book about the complexity of the human condition, of grief, of addiction, and more than anything, about facing our demons, head on.
The story itself focuses on our central character, Jack Sparks, as he goes about investigating all aspects of the paranormal with the aim of writing a book to prove that ghosts do not exist. Nor the after-life, or God, or the devil himself. The deeply wedged cynicism in Sparks triggers him to trek across the world, facing down all manners of experiments, religious ceremonies and occultists, in order to show, once and for all, that there are no monsters under the bed. All we have is the here and now. Nothing more.
Left, author Jason Arnopp
It is after Jack Sparks witnesses an exorcism taking place that the story really unleashes, with a forceful kick. Is the ceremony staged? Do demons exist? This is the foundation of the story, and of Jack’s journey into mental, physical and emotional hell.
Jason Arnopp has written the character of Jack Sparks masterfully. So richly detailed, so vivid, so heartbreakingly real, the reader can see him surely as clearly as the demons that trail across the pages of Jack’s own accounts within the novel. He isn’t the nicest character, either. There are touches of the broken man behind the bravado, that pulls the reader into a deeper investment, and then within the turn of the page we find ourselves angry at his words, his attitude, his stubbornness. He made me mad – then he made me feel sad. He became, for me, one of the most authentic characters I have read in a novel.
I am also a big fan of the use of multimedia communications in novels – and this story has plenty of it. I don’t know why, but in much the same way that I enjoy ‘found footage’ horror movies, I also love books that use real life media. Interspersed in this novel, many times, we have various sample chapters, emails, transcripts and footnotes. I love it. The ploy is used brilliantly and just the right amount – beautifully placed and, in truth, it adds a whole other dimension to the story. The emails between characters give readers a whole new insight into the behaviour of our central character -we even, if we are paying attention, become privy to information our main character doesn’t even want us to know. It makes the story real, more human, and frighteningly so.
All in all, this is a fantastic book. Once I began it, I became addicted. It ticks all the boxes for me. It is unnerving, frightening, unusual. Very original. Beneath that, the moments of humour give lighter moments, and the drama of the relationships between characters are just as engrossing as the horror that unfolds during Jack’s paranormal investigations.
I rate this book 5 out of 5. One of my favourite reads of 2016.
You can order The Last Days of Jack Sparks on AMAZON, WATERSTONES and in most book stores!