Can you believe it? We are almost there! Just two more weeks to go and we have finally reached the point that we’ve all been waiting for: Halloween! Well, maybe that’s just me that’s been waiting for it, but I’ll leave that hanging for a moment. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to give you posts that have dealt with all kinds of horror stuff. I could have taken the easy road and went solely with horror movies, but I figured that’s what most people are doing, so I thought why not take a different path? That said, you know how much I love horror movies so honestly there is never such a thing as too much of those in my book! Speaking of books (see what I did there?), today in what’s already the 9th episode of my Countdown to Halloween series I’m going to be featuring a horror novel. But not a normal one though, because for one thing it’s me you are talking to and I’m anything but normal. For the other I always like to introduce people to another one of my hobbies that they might not be familiar with. So what kind of diabolical thing am I going to talk to you about this time, you ask? Well, how about a novel where the lead person is…..you! Impossible you say? It isn’t! Welcome to the wonderful world of interactive novels. And so down the rabbit hole we go!
Before I will start the review of this one I guess now is as good a time as any to first explain what an interactive novel is. I was first introduced to this form of entertainment when I was a teenager, and back then they were known as gamebooks. One of the most succesful series of these books was called Fighting Fantasy. Written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston, a huge amount of stories in all kinds of settings were published. All you needed were two dice, a pencil and an eraser, to embark on a thrilling adventure where you were the hero. In one book you might be a swashbuckling pirate, in another a knight off on a dangerous quest. The possibilities were endless. Basically a gamebook reads just like any other novel, but instead of progressing from one page to the next, at the end of a paragraph you were presented with a number of choices. For instance it could be something as simple as: “Will you open the door, or will you move on down the path ignoring the door?” Each choice came with a page number, and after choosing you moved to that page and continued the adventure from that point. Or not, as some choices lead to the death of your character. These gamebooks always came with a set of simple rules that usually dealt with combat or certain tests that involved some dice rolling.
Now I will dive a little bit more into the history of gamebooks in an upcoming post for Raist’s Collection , but that’s not what we are here for today. The thing is, gamebooks are, as the name implies, also part games. Interactive novels though, throw away the dice elements and really are simply put books where you decide the outcome of the story by making choices. Nightshift is one of those, and I really had to laugh at the intro that the author wrote for this book. She said that there are no dice to throw in this one because, let’s face it, you would cheat anyway. Something like that is a nice little icebreaker, but that’s where the laughing stops though. I’m not featuring this novel today because it’s a nice, warm fluffy romance novel. If you want that, then I’m sorry you have reached the wrong blog. Nightshift is a horror novel, and a very good one at that. The nice thing about it though, is that you yourself are the star of it, but not as some kind of superhero or a gun wielding action star. No in this book you take on the role of a hospital worker. We all know that hospitals certainly aren’t places where one comes to have fun anyways. They can be genuinely creepy places. Nightshift though takes this to the extreme….
Right from the start an unsettling feeling takes a hold of you when you begin reading this. After an exhausting nightshift at the hospital, you wake up with a jolt, after having taken some sleep in a small break room. It’s dark, and at first you don’t exactly know where you are. But then you realise you are still at work and begin to relax. Unfortunately though, that relaxed feeling soon disappears as if it was never there. There’s an uncomfortable silence throughout the hospital, and it seems too dark for comfort. But that’s the least of your problems. Soon you stumble across the body of your coworker Nancy. To your absolute horror her throat has been slashed from ear to ear, and she has been stabbed multiple times. When you notice a number of bloodied footprints moving away from the corpse and into the corridor you begin to realise the horrifying truth: the murderer might still be here! Thinking fast, your heart pounding, you decide to go for help. The Intensive Care Unit seems to be the best place to start, so you start running. Arriving at the door, all you need now is to enter the code, and hopefully find some help. But then you hear a cough and heavy footsteps moving towards you. The murderer has found you…..
This is just the opening scene that I have described here, and it only gets worse from this point on. Author Victoria Hancox has written an incredibly suspenseful supernatural horror story, with many twists and turns. Each choice you will make might lead to solving the mystery you find yourself in. But then again that choice might also lead to your death. The novel contains a couple of fiendish puzzles to solve that are some real brainteasers, but never become impossible. The main draw of the book though is the story. You are continuously on your toes, as danger is everywhere and the unseen stalker could be just behind you at every turn. There are also quite a few supernatural elements blended into this one, that only make it even more interesting. I so far haven’t found my way out of the hospital unfortunately. But that’s the fun part, the next time you start you make different choices and hopefully those will take you closer to the solution. Nightshift is a very skillfully written novel, that I highly recommend for those of you that like horrorstories, and want to experience something different. It’s a great way to get introduced to the world of interactive novels and a perfect read for the Halloween season. It will also mean you probably don’t ever want to set foot into a hospital again, but hey that’s probably not very high on your list of priorities anyway.
I give Nightshift a 9 out of 10 score.