Review: ‘Night Train’ David Quantick

A woman wakes up, frightened and alone – with no idea where she is. She’s in a room but it’s shaking and jumping like it’s alive. Stumbling through a door, she realizes she is in a train carriage. A carriage full of the dead.

This is the Night Train. A bizarre ride on a terrifying locomotive, heading somewhere into the endless night. How did the woman get here? Who is she? And who are the dead? As she struggles to reach the front of the train, through strange and horrifying creatures with stranger stories, each step takes her closer to finding out the train’s hideous secret. Next stop: unknown.

I’m currently working on a horror novel that’s set on a subway train, so when I saw Night Train whilst perusing World of Book’s horror section, I figured it would be worth reading. If nothing else, perhaps it would give me some inspiration for my own story.

In all honesty, I’m not too sure what to say about Night Train. Looking at Goodreads, its average rating is three stars and many of the negative reviews mirror my own thoughts. I was looking forward to reading Night Train, especially after reading some of the endorsements on the back cover. Sarah Pinborough, an author whose work I’ve read before, described Night Train as “dark, witty and surprisingly moving,’ whereas comedy writer David Wong stated that he’d read it in one sitting.

Well, my reading experience was a little different. Far from reading Night Train one sitting, I felt that I had to force myself to finish it. I came very close on a couple of occasions to setting it aside and labelling it as a DNF. Do you ever read something that others have absolutely raved about and when you get to the end of it, you wonder if you’re stupid because you’ve apparently completely missed whatever it is they found in the book? That’s exactly how I felt when I finished Night Train. I’ve read my fair share of weird, experimental fiction, but I just couldn’t lose myself in Night Train. I very much feel like I just didn’t get it.

The three main characters – Garland, Banks and Poppy – felt very two dimensional and despite spending a majority of the book with all or one of them, I didn’t feel any sort of connection to them. If I don’t feel a connection with the characters, I care very little for them and, ultimately, their story. The dialogue, for me, felt very unnatural and stilted as well. Dialogue is notoriously difficult to write and aside from two novels, David Quantick has mostly written for magazines and TV. This could well explain why the dialogue felt a bit off.

Don’t get me wrong, David Quantick is obviously a talented writer, but I feel his novels just aren’t for me and that’s why I’m giving Night Train two stars.

Want to read Night Train? Head on over Hive, Bookshop or World of Books to order your copy, or buy it through your local bookstore.

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