MV Clark’s debut novel is not a zombie apocalypse novel – zombies are part of the day-to-day life in the parallel universe drawn by the author, a journalist for 18 years with a Masters in comparative literature.
The Splits follows a few, well-rounded characters who live in a world where the so-called Splits (a new re-imagination of the cinematic and literature-related zombies) are under fragile control within an alternative modern history of London. Clair, Anna, Patrick, Lupe and Michael alternatively narrate their own, interconnected stories through first person narrative and throughout more or less 40 years – spread out onto 298 pages.
Not long ago, I reviewed Ravenous (2018), an arthouse zombie horror film, which I called pretentious because there’s only so much you can do with a story revolving around zombies. Well, I was wrong. Although I still stand by my grade and opinion about Ravenous, the The Splits made me appreciate how a trite subject matter can be treated in a very original, refreshing way.
As a horror drama, The Splits works on multiple levels, of which the standouts, for me, were story, characters and chilling elements.
In terms of the story, through the fantastic writing of Mrs Clark, the reader gets more and more involved in the story, which unfolds slowly but constantly throughout the pages. The novel takes its time to describe the reality around our main characters, but it doesn’t waste any before introducing the viewer to the first, original twists. In a way, the zombie subgenre can be linked to body-horror (zombies are notoriously people falling apart), here, however, their soul is crumbling down as well, adding a layer of psychological and supernatural horror simultaneously to the story.
When it comes to the characters, their interactions develop the story as much as the aforementioned twists: in a way, they are the story itself, since we get to see the different happenings through their eyes and points of view. This clever and ballsy narrative technique helps the reader to question everything that happens: “Is this or that really that important, or is it the character that sees it that way?” Questions like that rise at every page, in this masterful bundle of tension. Also, the main characters we follow are, as I stated previously, very well-rounded. They feel like genuine and real people, who sometimes can be likeable, sometimes unlikeable. Every now and then, they make stupid or irrational decisions. Isn’t that what all of us do, though? Nevertheless, the protagonists here are mostly clever, which helps quite a bit to care about them.
What was the third aspect I mentioned before? Oh, yes: the horrific elements. Rather far apart from each other, the most intense moments in the book are extremely well descripted and feel rough and real. What I appreciated the most about them, however, is that they’re not necessarily connected to the zombies (pardon me, the Splits…): sometimes they come from the conflict between characters, which makes them even more impactful and triggers an emotional response from the reader.
As per flaws, I honestly didn’t find many. Perhaps, there’s a little dive in pace and tone right before the last 60/70 pages start, where some conflict should have been thrown in the mix and some action should have kicked off, in my opinion. Fortunately, one of the scariest and most goosebumps-inducing action in the entire story (I’d just call it the horde) interrupts this small portion of the book that drags a tiny bit.
Besides that, I pretty much loved MV Clark’s debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more from her. If you’re in search of a novel that combines horror and real-life drama, The Splits is the one to go with… in general, I strongly recommend you check this one out, you won’t regret it!
The Splits 9/10
Paperback: 298 pages
Author: MV Clark
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Price: $11.99 paperback; $5.57
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