I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Last Days of Jack Sparks on September 13 2016
Genres: Adult, Horror
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The nitty-gritty: Outrageous, terrifying, hysterically funny and completely original, this book will make you laugh and scream in the same breath.
Jack Sparks wasn’t on my radar until I had read a couple of rave reviews, and when I received a surprise copy of the book from Orbit, I knew it was fate. The Last Days of Jack Sparks will undoubtedly turn out to be one of my favorite books of the year, and you can bet I’ll be stalking Jason Arnopp until his next book comes out. Jack Sparks is one of the most annoying and unlikable characters I’ve ever met, and yet I couldn’t help but cling to his every word. Arnopp’s story begins with a forward written by Jack’s brother Alistair, who explains that Jack died while writing this book. Right off the bat the reader is thrown a curve ball, and that sense of unease and weirdness just keeps getting stronger as the story progresses. I have to admit I’ve never read a novel quite like this, so if you’re the kind of reader who is easily bored and searching for your next unique read, this could be it.
The story is told in first person by one Jack Sparks, who has gained fame and fortune from his outlandish experiments in investigative journalism (think Morgan Spurlock, the guy who made the movie Super Size Me). For example, Jack’s last book was called Jack Sparks on Drugs, which chronicled his first-hand experiences—yep, you guessed it—doing every drug under the sun and then writing about it. Jack is now an internet sensation as well as a semi-best-selling author, and in the aftermath of going through drug rehab he’s about to embark on his next journalistic experiment: the supernatural. Jack is a confirmed atheist and doesn’t believe in anything, and so he’s determined to debunk the supernatural in all its many forms. First off, Jack is invited to witness an exorcism in Rome, Italy, and despite some very realistic-looking demonic possession, he is convinced the entire thing is a set-up, and that the little girl who is supposedly possessed is simply a hired actress.
Later at the airport bar, Jack discovers a video on his YouTube channel that he has never seen before, a video that will completely change his life. The video terrifies Jack, even though he technically doesn’t believe in ghosts, and he’s determined to find out not only who shot it, but why it was posted to his YouTube channel. As Jack’s journey into the depths of the supernatural gets weirder and weirder, his firm disbelief in ghosts and demons begins to falter, and Jack starts to question his sanity. Are the things he’s seeing simply the aftermath of his drug addiction? Or is he actually witnessing true paranormal events?
This book was the most crazy fun I’ve had reading horror in a long time. Jack is telling the story after it’s happened, and so he uses carefully placed foreshadowing like this (as he’s arriving at the church where the exorcism will take place):
Everything is so quiet and serene, you’d scarcely credit the fact that in ninety minutes we’ll need an ambulance.
What?? Passages like this compelled me to turn the pages as fast as I could, and Jack’s pronouncements just get more and more outrageous. As I mentioned earlier, Jack is a hard guy to love, and on top of that he’s extremely unreliable. He doesn’t like anyone, he’s rude and obnoxious, and everyone he comes in contact with hates him after ten minutes of his company. But Jack’s got clout, and everyone wants to be in his next book, and so they put up with him. Part of the fun of reading this book was trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. Because Jack states over and over that everyone around him is trying to set him up—faking séances and making him think he’s hearing voices—the reader doesn’t believe any of it’s real either—until. Until shit happens and you’re left wondering if you’re as crazy as Jack is.
Jack’s one constant friend in the story—he seems to make more enemies than friends—is his roommate Bex, who he’s had a crush on for years. But luckily for Jack, he’s shown some constraint and realizes that he’d rather have Bex as a roommate and friend than a girlfriend. Bex pops up throughout the story, as Jack globe-trots from Rome to Hong Kong to Hollywood in search of paranormal proof, and while her role starts out as a supportive friend who is willing to put up with Jack’s bullshit, she eventually realizes he’s out of control and even she can’t help him. I really loved Bex for her outspokenness and her ability to stand up to Jack, and I loved that she’s Jack’s one weakness.
I don’t want to give away too much, so I won’t go into the plot other than what I’ve already told you. But let’s just say this book surprised me again and again. The story starts out rather lighthearted, as Jack makes fun of ghosts and the people who believe in them, but because he’s already lived through the story, there are glimmers of bad things to come. Little by little, Jack’s interactions with the paranormal become more and more terrifying, until they morph into something right out of a slasher film. A bizarre twist at the end explains the existence of the YouTube video, and I finished the book with my mouth hanging open as I tried to process what I had just read.
Luckily for you, this is the perfect time—right before Halloween—to pick up this book. Unexpected in every way, The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a nearly perfect horror story, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.