The Last Days of Jack Sparks
A modern morality tale lurks under this fast-paced horror novel. Jason Arnopp‘s The Last Days of Jack Sparks (Orbit, 2016) consists of the diary of a fictional character, Jack Sparks, along with a collection of interviews about him. Additional commentary by his surviving brother begins and ends the work.
Jack Sparks is well-known writer and personality, who scoffs at the idea of an afterlife, and would love to disprove hauntings and other supernatural encounters. Now that he’s gotten clean in rehab, he’s ready to concentrate on his new book, Jack Sparks on the Supernatural. Other than his love interest, his red-headed roommate, he’s disinterested in other people, unless he can exploit them in some way.
At least 50% of the information I just wrote turns out to be false. Jack is an unreliable narrator. The events he describes in his journal are framed by Alistair, his brother, who as it turns out, has his own motivation for presenting events a certain way. Let’s just say Jack and Alistair were not close.
Generally, I’m not a fan of horror novels. Despite that, this one kept my interest, with its echoes of Gone Girl. The main character creates a curated version of himself in his journal; in this case, Jack wants badly for us to believe he is cynical and self-confident, a Hunter S. Thompson type journalist on the prowl for people to ridicule. There’s no doubt that Jack is funny, though his cutting remarks are intended to provoke. As it turns out, that deflecting humor shields a deep well of pain, and that’s where the novel really gets interesting.
Denial of our own negative energy means it has to be projected onto something or somewhere. Jack has a great deal of neediness and anger built up behind his facade of arrogance. What happens with those emotions when they’re given free rein leads us to a frightening climax with tragic repercussions for those involved with Jack.
Gabrielle Mathieu is the author of the historical fantasy Falcon series (The Falcon Flies Alone, and the upcoming The Falcon Strikes.) She blogs about travel and her books at http://gabriellemathieu.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter to get updates about new podcasts and more: @GabrielleAuthor.