For reference, here's the list of my Top Twenty Reads of All Time. (ANIMOSITY has not been added yet, because I want to showcase those that came before it.) Once you click over, I'd like you to note only the top five. Now, on with the review.
ANIMOSITY is the best book I've read. Period. Will you think so? Well, this comes down to, as always, personal preference and the foundation on which you've built your life. My own perception of the human condition is different than yours. I'm a horror writer, parent, and life-long dog lover. Some of us will share one or two or all of those traits but still will not view the world around us in the same light. With ANIMOSITY, James Newman forced a mirror into my face. I wasn't reading about Andrew Holland. The events of this book were happening to me. Never before have I been so affected by a piece of fiction. When I wasn't crying I was filled with a tangible sense of dread. Throughout the entire novel, something sinister lingered in my peripheral vision. Newman channeled malice and foreboding, and poured both into me, as if he'd stuck a funnel down my throat.
This book asks hard questions: Does art truly imitate life? Are writers of dark fiction, at their cores, dark people, and is that a bad thing? Should society be mindful of those who create scenes of murder and mayhem for the entertainment of others? Your answer to that question will affect how much you appreciate this novel. Furthermore, Newman delves into mob mentality and self-imposed reality. We've all seen footage or been part of a riot. You've seen the maniacal glee spread across the faces of persons you wouldn't think possible of such violence. The human mind is a scary place, and once that hunk of gray jelly settles on what it considers fact there's not much anyone can do to sway its perception of reality. Just look at religion and politics, how either side of the fence can be so adamant about their beliefs that they will ignore truth and hard evidence. No one likes being wrong, and that can draw out the worst in everyone of us. It is not the story or plot or even the characters that make this book exceptional (although those parts are outstanding as well) but the overall message.
Placing this novel as number one on my list of favorite reads was a much harder decision than I expected. I had to consider several things: entertainment value, story progression, the quality of the writing, and personal preference. I think the most important part of Newman's tribute to the horror genre is that every chapter, every page, every word is important to the piece. That cannot be said of any of the other novels in my Top Twenty list. Depending on what kind of reader you are, superfluous detail can be fun or tedious to read. Marissha Pessl's NIGHT FILM, the book that previously held the number one spot on my list, came together at the end to form one large picture, but I would be lying if I said there weren't parts when I was bored senseless. Same goes for NOS4A2, IT, HORNS, and THE HOBBIT. ANIMOSITY is relentless. Not once did I check how much I had left to read, and, even though I required brief breaks from the unyielding tension, I never actually wanted to stop reading.
The blurb on the cover states: "...one mean hunk of nightmare..." You'd be wise to believe that statement. I cannot stress enough how unsettling this book is, and I refuse to spoil a single word of it by warning you of the atrocities you'll witness.
In summation: I've done my best with this review, but I've come nowhere near doing justice to Newman's tale of an unlucky fellow set upon by a neighborhood possessed by false truth. ANIMOSITY is a masterwork, a canvas painted with social commentary and buckets of blood that should not be ignored.