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Suicide Forest
Jeremy Bates, Author

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Just outside of Tokyo lies Aokigahara, a vast forest and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Japan...and also the most infamous spot to commit suicide in the world. Legend has it that the spirits of those many suicides are still roaming, haunting deep in the ancient woods. When bad weather prevents a group of friends from climbing neighboring Mt. Fuji, they decide to spend the night camping in Aokigahara. But they get more than they bargained for when one of them is found hanged in the morning—and they realize there might be some truth to the legends after all.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Plot twists, gripping suspense, and a highly visual cinematic storytelling style makes for an entertaining, if not nightmare-inducing, read.

Prose: Bates’s prose is simple and clean, propelling the plot along at a breakneck pace.  The author creates an evocative sense of place through detailed description and a pervading tone of unease.

Originality: Bates’s novel calls to mind works of classic horror, as a cast of seemingly ordinary characters fall victim to a horrifying murder spree. Bates adds contemporary twists to the horror trope by including references to Japanese culture and blending the impact of substance use with the horror of being trapped in a forest, haunted by ghosts, deranged murderers, or perhaps both.

Character Development: While Bates's characters are not always richly developed, they serve the machinations of the story effectively as a harmless adventure turns horrendously wrong.

Date Submitted: May 16, 2018

Reviews
Bestsellersworld.com

Jeremy Bates has written a spellbinding horror story that steadily heightens in suspense until the tension of individuals in desperate straits reaches epic proportions, resulting in an explosive climax followed by a nerve-racking scene in the epilogue.

An eclectic group of seven people make a spur-of-the-moment decision to go camping in Japan’s Aokigahara Jukai, a dense forest located at the base of Mount Fuji. The group believes it will be an adventure and ignores the ominous warnings to stay out of the forest. Aokigahara Jukai is also known by the name of Suicide Forest, and it is viewed as being haunted by the ghosts of the people who have committed suicide.

The deeper into the forest the group hikes, the more anxious and unsettled each person becomes. The forest is deathly quiet, and little sunlight is able to penetrate the thick canopies of trees. When the group comes upon two oddly shaped fused trees with arrows pointing in two different directions, they decide to split up and do some exploring. Lives are changed forever from that moment.

Grisly discoveries of gravesites, swinging crosses with the absence of wind, partially decayed bodies hanging from trees, ghostly figures, a haunting phone call, lost with little hope of being rescued, and running out of food and water all contribute to turning a fun escapade into a horrible nightmare.

Suicide Forest is told through the eyes of twenty-six-year-old Ethan Childs. Ethan’s reminisces of past memories are an integral part of helping readers gain insight into the reactions of Ethan and the other members of the group in their struggles to deal with unanticipated and harrowing circumstances. Because of the predicament of the individuals, they are faced with making difficult decisions where the difference between what is morally right and wrong can become blurred. Although the group bonds together in a life and death fight for survival, at times personal feelings get in the way; this leads to intergroup altercations and cracks in the bond.

The excellent use of imagery enables readers to become intimately involved in the story vicariously experiencing the abject terror, misery, and despair faced by each person. The hair-raising story keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat wondering if anyone will make it out of the macabre forest alive. Each chapter ends with a hook that entices readers to turn the page and continue reading until they have reached the end of the book.

Hellnotes

Let’s talk about death.

Death is always a touchy subject. Well, not just death, which is often a benign abstract thing that we tend to voice in impersonal and hypothetical tones. But dying. That’s a tough one. Not the dying you do when you are old and gray and ready to go. The type of dying that comes to you, a friend or a loved one suddenly, uninvited, and usually rudely. The ones you want to avoid but can’t: Accidents. Murder. Suicide.

Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates is about that type of dying. He places his tale in a very real place: Aokigahara in Japan, also known as the Sea of Trees or Suicide Forest. It’s a popular place for people to go to commit suicide; up to 100 suicides happen in the forest every year. In Bates’ creepy but riveting novel, the main character, Ethan, along with six others, plan to hike to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro but are prevented by the weather. They then choose, with some reluctantly agreeing, to camp overnight in the famed Suicide Forest. The others include Ethan’s girlfriend Melinda, a late invitee John Scott who knows Melinda from before, Ethan’s work friend Neil, a Japanese student named Tomo, and recently met Israeli travelers Ben and Nina. We find out that all of them have their secrets and brushes with death or even suicide. Ethan is the first-person narrator, so we find out most about his own past but all of them reveal bits and pieces of themselves as the story develops. It is a slow development but the author is quite good at that sort of thing. He is also very good at building atmosphere and describing natural environments. You will feel like you can visualize the forest. In fact, I looked at photos of the forest after reading the book and they perfectly matched Bates’ literary description! The novel reads more like an eerie psychological drama until everyone wakes up after a night in the forest and discover one of their group is hanging dead from a tree branch.

Suicide Forest holds you to the end; narration, dialog, and descriptions all pull together realistically to place you in the moment. This is one of those books that invites you to read it in one sitting. Lovers of visceral horror may be disappointed, at least until the end, but those who like tense character based horror and thrillers will be rewarded. As for myself, I was intrigued on how Bates used each character to illustrate various reactions to tragedy and death, from the ones who tried to stay in control, to the ones who went into denial, to the ones who fell apart. It becomes a little lesson in grief and coping, yet it never loses sense of the story and keeps you wondering what is really happening. At first I was a little off-balanced by the climax as I was expecting something else, but soon I realized it worked as it was and I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

From the book’s cover that reads “World Scariest Places: Book One,” it appears that this may be one of the series of novels using actual places on Earth. It is an intriguing concept and one I hope the author continues with; his first experiment is clearly a success. Suicide Forest is for the reader who likes his thrills slowly revealed and full of psychological and interpersonal drama but still shocking and scary.Suicide Forest may not have you buying a plane ticket for Japan to camp amongst the corpses but it will still transport you to the forest and reveal its secrets.

Kirkus Reviews

In Bates’ (The Taste of Fear, 2012, etc.) horror novel, a simple excursion into a reputedly haunted forest turns into a nightmare when people start dying in conspicuously unnatural ways.

Ethan Childs, an American teaching English in Tokyo for the last four years, plans to climb Mount Fuji with girlfriend, Mel, and a few pals. But when a looming storm nixes the outing, Israeli tourists Ben and Nina convince the group to join them on a hike through nearby Aokigahara Jukai. The forest is infamous for an incredibly high number of suicides, reportedly in the hundreds per year, and some believe the ghosts of the dead haunt it. What begins as an unsettling ambience (there are no sounds of animals or any trace of wind) quickly gives way to serious, tangible threats when one of the party members dies from an apparent suicide. Ethan and company are soon lost, and the noises they hear in the woods either confirm the existence of ghosts, or perhaps worse, mean that a murderer is tracking them down. Readers may recognize a slasher-film vibe—people willingly go into the creepy woods—and familiar characters, like the smart friend, Honda, who stays behind, and the obnoxious jerk, John Scott, who reaps much of Ethan’s animosity. But Bates’ approach to the story is surprisingly restrained, cultivating impressive frights in the unnerving environment: The trees have “skeletal hands,” for instance, and the forest is so dense that the sky practically disappears on a hike that’s hardly begun. The latter part of the novel becomes a desperate fight for survival as the group runs out of water and is further burdened by both an ailment and severe injury. The story’s ambiguity, however, is retained throughout: No one is sure whether the unseen villain is human or apparition or whether they are simply victims of unfortunate circumstances. Back stories help shape the characters, including Ethan and Mel’s relationship hampered by possible infidelity and the protagonist tormented by the death of older brother Gary, killed by a robber. The story, decelerated by its big reveal, loses some of its steam near the end, but the conclusion is potent and not easily anticipated.

Bates’ choice to avoid brazen scares makes for an understated horror story that will remind readers what chattering teeth sound like.

Reader Views

“Suicide Forest” is a supernatural suspense horror novel by Jeremy Bates.  Aokigahara is a forest that sits near the foot of Mt. Fuji. It is also known as Suicide Forest. When a group of friends, planning on climbing Mt. Fuji, finds their plans put on hold due to an impending storm, they have to come up with alternative plans for their adventure. Meeting another couple, the group discusses camping out in this forest that is reputed to be haunted. Intrigued by the possibility of finding a suicide victim, they gather their camping gear and begin their journey. As soon as they are in the parking lot, they discover a vehicle that has been abandoned. Seeing this brings them closer to the idea that this place is for real - so do the signs warning people against committing suicide. As the party continues on into the forest, they decide to go off the trail and wander through an area that has signs posted against trespassing. Along the way, they find old, weather beaten belongings, and ribbons. There are also long strings that seem to make their own path. Knowing that these were probably brought here by people who never left, the group follows these strings in search of both a place to camp and a chance to see a hanging body.

As they proceed, the group discovers that the area itself is dangerous. There are hidden caves, left over from a volcanic eruption that one can easily fall into. Still they continue on. After they set up camp and darkness sets in, they find what they have been looking for all day.  From that moment on, things go awry. One member becomes deathly ill and another appears to have committed suicide. Their means of communication also disappears. Becoming lost, they worry when their food and water supplies become low. It appears that the spirit of the forest is angry and out to get them. As time passes and they are subjected to more horrors, they discover the truth. The question remains, will they be able to escape with the knowledge that they have acquired? You have to read this to find out!

"Suicide Forest” by Jeremy Bates covers over 400 pages. Do not let the size of this book intimidate you, because I read it in two nights. It probably would have been better if I hadn’t read it before falling asleep. It definitely haunted my dreams. The name Aokigahara also piqued my curiosity, I did some further investigating and discovered that this place really does exist and over 100 people commit suicide there annually. The writer perfectly describes the forest as it is shown in pictures and videos. The reality of this place made the tale more terrifying. The characters were also very real, and the author takes us into the psyches so we get a better understanding about what drives them. Like a roller coaster ride, this story has a twist that will totally throw the reader off guard. This makes the ride more fun, and more horrifying. I highly recommend “Suicide Forest” to readers looking for a horror novel that is very unique.

The Japan Times

"Creatively creepy and sure to scare"

The Midwest Book Review

One of the most beautiful forests in the world is also the most deadly, harboring a reputation for suicides that indicates that more than trees is growing deep in the Japanese woods of Aokigahara. You'd think that would be the last place where a thwarted group of mountain-climbers would choose to camp; but in fact when one of their members is found hung in a tree come morning, the group decides that further investigation is required.

And so the predictable (up to this point) horror of the "suicide forest" unfolds. At this point, everything changes and what seems a conventional horror story turns into something more satisfying, with twists and turns of plot that keep readers guessing.

It's ironic that the story begins with a decision not to hike Mount Fuji because weather conditions might make it too dangerous when, in fact, there's a greater danger lurking at tamer elevations.

It's ironic that members of a private teaching company would find themselves absorbing life-or-death lessons at the hands of a force greater than their belief system. And, it's Jeremy Bates's use of the first person to explore these scenarios of horror that successfully, completely involves readers in events as they unfold. Through Ethan's eyes the forest and its possibilities come to life, and through his investigations the horrible truth evolves.

Now, many horror accounts use the same kind of formula writing: unsuspecting (or curious) victims poke at a known danger until, one by one, they succumb to some dark magic, or a monster. If you're expecting that kind of breezy horror, move on: Suicide Forest isn't like that. It's about heroes and about atrocities committed in the name of heroism.

It's about legacies and impacts of decisions, and it's about a reign of terror that has its possible roots in the supernatural (or, does it?)

Most of all, it's ultimately about love - and about nightmares that keep victims screaming long beyond the event (or any revelations about its realities.) It's about reclaiming power and wielding it. Expect scenes sometimes gory and startling - this is no light read.

Suicide Forest takes all the elements of horror - gore and bloodshed, psychological ties that bind, and a group of fairly normal individuals who themselves absorb some of the horror they confront - and turns it around so that, in the end, one doesn't quite know where the true horror lies.

It's difficult to dance around premise and outcome without revealing spoilers, in this case. Suffice it to say that Suicide Forest takes any preconceived notions of 'horror' and turns them on end.

And, ultimately, that's what the seasoned horror enthusiast really looks for in a good horror story: something that seems to lead in a predictable direction, than takes the concepts of 'good' and 'evil' and adds an unpredictable twist.

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