Saturday, October 01, 2016

“The Last Days of Jack Sparks” by Jason Arnopp – The Skeptic's Inferno

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp - book cover
Whether you exclusively believe in the tangible and observable or allow for the existence of anything that cannot be disproved, there is a skeptic hiding within you, no matter if he's big or small... and that's perfectly normal. Skepticism is actually a handy survival tool in a world where there are more than enough shady characters trying to lie and deceive you. Of course, like most things in life, it's only beneficial when practiced with a certain moderation, and in The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp, we get to witness what happens when it's taken to the greatest extreme possible.

The titular Jack Sparks is a writer who has tackled a large number of topics, including gangs, drugs, himself, and even jumping on a pogo stick. He is a popular reporter and has many followers yearning for his next article across all social media platforms. To put it mildly, he's worldwide sensation and is letting it go to his head. He is extremely self-centered and immeasurably confident in his knowledge of literally everything. As his next challenge, he sets to prove that everything supernatural is a hoax, all while being the biggest jerk possible. And so he begins with an exorcism of a 13 year-old girl in Rome, on Halloween night, an event which he mocks through and through, generating all that precious social media controversy he's yearning for. Unbeknownst to him though, there is more to the world than he imagines, and mocking the devil himself bears with it some rather grave consequences.

This book may be classified in the horror genre, but if you're looking for a scares, blood and guts galore, then I'm sorry to say that you'll probably be a tad disappointed with what you'll find in here. The horror elements are certainly present throughout the whole story, but there is a heck of a lot of humour to be found here as well. Whether it's in the way Sparks perceives and describes the world or tries to brush off with increasing desperation the supernatural phenomenon around him, there's always something to keep a smile on your face. In the last quarter of the book, things do begin to escalate and intensify, with the comedy slowly fading away and taking a back-seat to an atmospheric kind of horror, one that inspires dread and discomfort rather than going for shock value.

There are plenty of interesting and idiosyncratic individuals populating the pages of this book, and each one of them adds something to Jack's story, whether it's a joke, a threat or some important life lesson (that Jack will no doubt ignore). The majority of the story is told in first-person through Jack's perspective , and the author does a commendable job at portraying life as seen by a self-centered narcissist who thinks he knows it all. He often makes us wonder about the reliability of such a narrator. As a matter of fact, we eventually even begin to question the accuracy of the foreword, afterword, and footnotes left by Alistair Sparks, Jack's brother, making for a thrilling ride where you never know what to expect.

The plot has certainly been put together with meticulous care, starting off pretty quickly and never really taking much of a break. Things progress in an orderly method, easing the reader into a supernatural world and a state of suspended disbelief that feels like its achieved naturally; there are no elements which feel out of place or unrealistic within the context of the story. For a horror novel, the ending is always of prime importance and can make or break the entire effort, and I'm rather glad that contrary to the recent trend of leaving things hanging (started by Stephen King I believe), Arnopp wraps everything up rather nicely. There are no cliffhangers or unaddressed plot points that get left up in the air; everything converges together for a very satisfying final where all gets resolved and everyone gets their dues.

In conclusion, The Last Days of Jack Sparks is an original novel of truly high quality in every sense of the word. It's a very unique ride into the world of horror, one that can definitely make you laugh and sweat in equal measures. Those of you who want a well-written horror story with a lot of creativity are guaranteed to love this.

Jason Arnopp

Jason Arnopp

Personal site

Jason Arnopp is a journalist, novelist and scriptwriter most famous for his 2011 horror feature Stormhouse, as well as the scripting of some Doctor Who audiobooks and plays for the BBC. More recently he went ahead and published his own original horror novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks .

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