Nyctophobia

Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler Book Cover

A while ago I finished reading the novel Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler,a delightfully creepy book that I would highly recommend.

If I have one complaint about Nyctophobia, it’s that the title doesn’t really match the story. It’s mentioned a few times that the protagonist suffered from nyctophobia as a child, and a returning fear of the dark is considered as a rational explanation for the things she experiences, but it has no real bearing on the plot. In fact, except for those times when it’s explicitly mentioned, she doesn’t seem as averse to entering dark rooms as one suffering from nyctophobia should be.

That is a minor nitpick, however. The author has created an eerie setting in Hyperion House, one that makes me think of unused spaces in my own home where anything could be hiding. It’s this sense of something dark lurking beneath the light, kept at bay by nothing more than a few locked doors, that conjures childhood dread. It’s a subtle creepiness in the background of everyday life, and it’s where the book excels.

Where the book falls short is when it comes time to actually face the denizens of the darkness. Such scenes feel anticlimactic. It’s not that the specters aren’t scary to look at—in real life, they’d be terrifying—but in the book their reveal comes a bit too early, perhaps, and the way they’re presented could have been scarier.

The ending is fantastic. I like horror stories that leave you with a measure of uncertainty. It keeps you fixated on the story long after you’ve finished and cements the chills in your mind. The ending of Nyctophobia, in particular, poses an interesting question. If faced with the same decision as the protagonist, what would I choose?

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