Thursday, 30 October 2014

Affinities by Chris Hollis

Affinities by Chris Hollis

Wow! What a book!

Affinities is an unnerving, creepy psychological thriller. There is plenty of guesswork, with many twists and turns.

About Chris Hollis:

At an old wooden desk in a chilly sports hall, a teenage Chris Hollis first realised he wanted to write. The exam paper asked for a short scene about a person being chased. Chris ran over the word count.

Then he ran out of paper. Then he wrote on the back...

Many (enough) years later, he has developed a flavour for fast-paced fiction, and a sense of paranoia that has invited comparison to the likes of James Herbert, Kafka, and his main source of inspiration, H. G. Wells.

Other favourites include John Wyndham and the modern horror of Graham Masterton. Chris is always hard at work on the next thriller, with no shortage of ideas.

About Affinities:

I opened up Affinities to make sure that the file conversion had worked and that I didn’t have a garble of script in front of me, intending to get a proper start on it in the morning. Well, chapter one had me gripped and I found myself at the end of it before reminding myself it was well after midnight and that I had work in the morning. I also wondered whether it was the kind of thing to be reading just before sleep!

Chapter one was unsettling, drawing on the common fear around what happens when I go to sleep? The scratching and scuffling noises which Andrew hears at night were truly frightening, rather than falling into the children’s night-time monsters category. Having not read the blurb, seen the cover or read any more of Hollis’ work, I wondered if I had picked up a horror, happy to return it in the morning.

I’m very pleased that I didn’t. The story unfolded quickly. Andrew Goodwin is a man whose life has come apart at the seams. The reader comes in when he is at his lowest, and strange noises haunt him at night. He realises that he is losing whole days of his life, sleeping through all daylight hours, and only managing to stay awake for a couple of hours every night.

I won’t say anything more about the clever plot, as the less informed a reader is (as I was), the more likely s/he is to enjoy the book. The reveals are well-timed and well-explained. Hollis allows his readers the odd prediction, timed perfectly so that they can pat themselves on the back for being so clever when they turn out to be right.

My only negative comment is that the first section of the book does tend to go on for a bit. I realise now that this is necessary - the blow-by-blow of Andrew’s waking hours is important so that later the reader can piece together his days and nights - but still, it did begin to drag. Alright, this is weird and frightening, something odd is happening to him and he’s afraid; I get it - what next? If that section had carried on for much longer with the questions not being answered, I would have been in great danger of skipping pages.

The quality of Hollis’ writing is excellent. His use of language flows well without feeling forced or repetitive. His depiction of paranoia is beautiful to behold, and very believable. Hollis’ roots in Wyndham and HG Wells are clear. Most of his characters are well rounded, with all their hard lines and soft curves. I haven’t got a good grasp of Isabel yet but I do notice that she will be further teased out in his second book of this series.

Affinities is Hollis’ first book in his Lifecycle Series. The second, Outshine, is due to be released later this year, and deals with some of the characters his readers met in Affinities.

All in all, wonderful work. I very much enjoyed reading the book and am thrilled to have been able to review it.

Big thumbs up, with four and a half stars out of five.

Where you can find Chris Hollis online:

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