Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Spoiler alert: The fictional author of this book is dead. Thankfully, the real author, Jason Arnopp, is able to give us an accounting of Jack’s final hours on this earth from multiple viewpoints–all of which are varying degrees of painful and horrific.
Jack Sparks is a talented writer. He’s also a colossal douche. Those two traits combined to make him one of the world’s most popular commentators on pop culture.
For this latest project, Sparks sets out to prove that ghosts (and supernatural things in general) are complete BS. His research gets off to an ignominious start when he live tweets (and mocks) an exorcism in Italy. Later, a creepy video he swears he didn’t create is posted to his YouTube account before being quickly deleted.
After that, things start to go very, very badly for poor Jack…or very well, depending on your point of view. Sparks’ notes are footnoted by a wealth of information and commentary from his brother Alastair, who sounds like he had a pretty big axe to grind with his famous sibling.
No matter who you believe, however, it’s clear that Jack Sparks’ final days were spent in a way that no one would want to die.
I’m a sucker for books that make use of modern information streams (Twitter, online news reports, etc.) to help fill in the narrative. Arnopp brilliantly weaves Sparks’ social media obsession into the story while also making it an integral part of his inevitable downfall.
The scares in Last Days are given to us from two different angles. On one hand, we get first person accounts (via Sparks) of potentially supernatural events that would scare even the most jaded skeptic. On the other, we hear from people recounting Jack’s observations and behavior in a way that is often completely different from what he said–and usually even more terrifying. These multiple viewpoints/accounts help keep the most potentially trope-laden portions of the novel from feeling stale or predictable.
While I’m all for having a morally complicated protagonist, Sparks’ lack of empathy and ethics makes him so unlikable that by the time he’s spiraled near the bottom, it’s hard to feel anything but relief. Arnopp puts Sparks through the ringer and then some, turning what starts as a tight/fascinating narrative into a tale that leaves you feeling a bit exhausted by the end.
That being said, Jack Spark’s journey is still a great one to take (as long as you’re reading it and not on it yourself). The explosive ending fits beautifully with clues that are strategically placed throughout the book, making it well worth your time to go back and see what you might have missed on the first read.
There may not be a lot of folks who’d want to wish Jack Sparks well at his funeral, but learning about how he died is a heck of a lot of fun.