#1 World’s Scariest Places (Can be read out of order)
Published by Guillinnein Books (14th December 2014)
My rating: ⭐ star: ⭐
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD, CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Actual rating of 3.5
In Japan, just outside Tokyo, you will find the forest Aokigahara – or more commonly referred to – The Suicide Forest. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and it is said that the forest calls to those lost souls. It is said that the many spirits of those who took their lives in the forest still reside there, haunting the sea of trees. When the promise of a storm prevents a group of friends from following through on their schedule to climb Mt. Fuji, they decide to camp the night in Aokigahara and start off the next morning, things don’t go to plan however, when one of the party is found hanged in the morning. Lost and terrified, the group begin to wonder if the legends are true, will they make it out of the forest alive?
I love Japan. It’s my number one destination. I’m also lucky enough to have been there, and I plan to go again. I remember in the week leading up to my departure from Australia, my brother said I should go and visit Aokigahara, I didn’t get the chance to as my schedule was fairly jam packed. To be honest, I would like to see the forest, I don’t want to go in, I don’t want to try walking the trails, I would just like to stand in the carpark for a little while and get a feel for the place. I believe that the forest should be respected, as should the spirits of those who took their lives between the forest’s trees. I want to start this review by saying that the research that Bates does into the subject matter of his stories is brilliant. He really goes out of his way to make sure that he has all the facts straight and I absolutely love that about his books. I think it’s a big part of why I have continued to work my way through his catalogue. I love that he included Ubasute, I believe that this is what first started the legends of Aokigahara, and not a lot of people actually know that or even know that it was a thing. So I really applaud Bates for including this in his story, I love that you can learn something new from reading his books.
The story follows a group of 20 somethings as they set out to climb Mt. Fuji, when they arrive however, they are told that a storm is brewing and it is heavily advised that they do not start their ascent, instead wait until the next morning. They meet another couple at this point, and it is this couple who are planning to camp in the forest overnight. Without much coercion needed, the group of friends decide to join the couple and explore the forest a bit before settling in for the night. They do something that is not advised which is leaving the trail while following ribbons and string that people who have entered the forest leave as a way for them to find their way back out should they change their mind. As night begins to creep in, they set up camp and think nothing much of spending the night in a supposedly haunted forest, yet things soon change when one of their party are found hanging from a tree the following morning.
I really loved the eerie atmosphere that Bates injected this story with. It gave you a real sense of creep factor, which I love, and let’s be real, that’s why we read horror novels isn’t it? He also did a brilliant job of making the reader feel the claustrophobia and isolation that his character endured. Adding a little tension to this with the addition of a man from our protagonist’s girlfriend’s past was a stroke of genius and I felt it really helped move the dialogue along. I sympathised with our protagonist a lot and I really felt for him in his moments of insecurity.
The characters were all really well written and fleshed out so that they were more than just a person on a page, they came alive throughout the story, and I honestly felt what all of them were feeling which I think shows that Bates is a master at injecting his characters with a sense of realism through their flaws, trials and triumphs.
The story itself started strong, and I definitely felt the creep vibe a lot, I actually regretted reading it before bet at one point hahaha. However, I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed with the way the story went. (view spoiler) I will say though, the backstory of the antagonist was masterful, even if it isn’t what I was looking for, it was absolutely fantastic and I applaud Bates for this.
The ending of the story was heartbreaking, and I really felt the pain that the characters were feeling at the time. This wasn’t a horror story with a happy ending (so to speak) this felt like a true account of what one would deal with after the ordeal that they experienced at a point in time that was supposed to be the trip of a life time (if they survive of course…), and I love that he went this way in the end.
All in all, this was a solid horror story with a well researched subject matter that really brought the creep factor in. Bates is a master at injecting his horror novels with atmosphere you can breath, all the while you feel like you’re fighting for your life alongside his characters. He brings a sense of realism to the horror genre and I’m here for it. Though this one didn’t go the way that I was hoping when I started reading, it was still an incredibly enjoyable story.
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