IMPORTANT: PLEASE REWIND TAPE
Jason Arnopp is the crazed mind behind the fascinatingly haunting break out hit ‘The Last Days Of Jack Sparks’ (2016 – read our review here); which in my opinion has firmly cemented him into the future of British Horror writing. You only have to look at his past credits, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Stormhouse’, ‘Beast in the Basement’ and ‘American Hoarder’ to see that Arnopp is adept at packing the punch whether that is with longer fiction, novellas, short stories or screen writing.
I have to say from the outset of this review that I am a fan of Arnopp’s work and I also follow the man through his Twitter and Patreon accounts – both of which I’d highly recommend for insightful information and for getting the jump on his various projects before they come to light. (Read our interview of Jason Arnopp here)
‘Auto Rewind’ is a hard-hitting novella; there are no punches that miss their intended target, that target being your face. The story invades your consciousness and causes the reader to question the very essence of what makes us human and the struggles that many face behind closed doors. Arnopp has an undeniable skill at taking the reader down memory lane, his writing is routed in what must be a very informative time period for him (late 70’s 80’s and 90’s) and causes the reader to get caught up in all this positive and wonderful nostalgia. I believe this ‘nostalgia’is what Arnopp harnesses to pull the reader into the story whether you were consenting or not.
My mum’s eyes keep wandering away from the TV screen, across the living room carpet, to the dead body slumped in the corner. I have to remind her to focus on Doctor Who. Especially as this is The Five Doctors: the special twentieth anniversary story!’
What an opening paragraph!
If this doesn’t make you want to read on then I suggest you scuttle out to the kitchen and use that old rusty looking vegetable peeler. Yes, that’s the one; on the draining board with the twine around the handle. Now use it to gouge out your eyeballs. If you are unable to take the plunge with an opening paragraph like that, you shouldn’t be allowed to read. Period.
Therefore, I assume we all still have our eyeballs…then let us continue.
The story centres on Stephen and his relationship with his mother. Mick the VHS (pirate – criminal mastermind) and a council employee with a job to do. The characterisations of Stephen are expertly fashioned, causing the reader to buy into his mind-set from the first sentence. We begin to see the world as it functions to and around Stephen. We become aware of his semblance of a life that is unlike his peers and our view of what is ‘normal’. His mother and Mick form his other two stable pillars in an already fractured world. Arnopp expresses Stephen’s worldview delicately where subtle nuances blend the film world (that is his infatuation) and his real world together.
Stephen’s continuous rating of particulars in his life is a lovely touch that I enjoyed and brought with it, a fair share of chuckles and worked well as a vehicle in which Arnopp could add delicate sprinklings of humour throughout, without losing the drive and focus of the book complimenting the complexities of Stephen’s character throughout.
The opening third of the book helps Arnopp weave his pen with the deft ability that brought so many compliments and plaudits of his debut novel ‘The Last Days Of Jack Sparks’ (a reason it’s been picked up by Ron Howard’s production company – but I digress). The opening third of ‘Auto Rewind’ is sharp, quick witted, touching and poignant; showing that there is a sensitive and emotive person lurking within Arnopp (think of Kuato from ‘Total Recall’). Arnopp is showing great maturity in his writing ‘Auto Rewind’ is not all about the scares, horror and the macabre – it’s about what makes us human, fallible and broken creatures and I feel here is where the real horror begins.
The second third of the book is by far the best part, it is so good I want to tell you about it all, but I will not because you should discover it as I did. In the dark and all alone. The moment that I realised what I was reading, I had to just sit there mouth gaping thinking BLOODY HELL the man is a genius. The relationship with Stephen’s Mother and Mick becomes somewhat strained and seeing the despairing circumstances he’s plummeting into causes the reader to devourer the book faster than my next page clicking on my Kindle would refresh.
The final act of the book is where Arnopp jumps off the deep end and drags us unassuming readers under, to join him for the relentless finale of ‘Auto Rewind’. By now, the frenetic pace of the story reaches its natural peak and the story and characters are crying out for a conclusion. Arnopp delivers this conclusion in such a masterful way it’s hard not to be blown out of the water. On finishing the book I couldn’t help but just sit there in awe; the book, let’s not forget, is only novella length but Arnopp packs it full of quality, in my opinion there is not a piece of dialogue that doesn’t belong, with every word crafted and shaped to cause maximum impact.
The story, themes and writing are brilliant delivering subtle horror in a fresh and haunting way.
Arnopp has a way of seeing things and turning them on their head causing the normal to become abnormal in the most distressing of ways. Arnopp has a firm throttling grip around the horror genres throat and knows how to use its thematic elements to highlight and accentuate elements of his storytelling – which he does so with aplomb and ease, tenderly using conventions to manipulate the reader into a well-disguised horror / supernatural rollercoaster ride.
Finally, it is clear to see that Arnopp has a mastery and is at home when discussing things from his childhood or formative years (nostalgia). In doing so is able to teleport the reader to a time when games consoles where made of wood, VHS tapes were the currency, TV’s had remotes that were attached with a cable and everyone knew a Mick who had the latest pirate videos in their car boot.
If you are looking for an enjoyable, short read, this book is for you.
If you are a fan of ‘The Last Days Of Jack Sparks’ this book is for you.
If you are interested in psychological horror / thrillers, this book is for you.
If you are looking for a story that is like no other you have ever read then this book is for you.
If you are after an author and a book that will not disappoint then Jason Arnopp and ‘Auto Rewind’ are the perfect match for you.
-BE KIND REWIND-
Jason Arnopp is a British author and scriptwriter, with a background in journalism.
He wrote the Lionsgate feature film Stormhouse, various Doctor Who things, a Friday The 13th novel and script-edited the 2012 Peter Mullan film The Man Inside.
Auto Rewind was published by Retribution Books.
You can now purchase Auto Rewind via Amazon Books with a whopping 50% off!
Review by Ross Jeffery
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