Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: "Slade House" by David Mitchell

Again with Slade House, David Mitchell has given the reading public an immensely entertaining, mind-blowing and life affirming novel, only this time, in the form of a rather creepy and skin crawling haunted house story. Even when I don’t like his book’s very much (Ghostwritten, his first novel, is not very good, and Cloud Atlas, as I have said before, is more of a literary stunt and lacks substance), I’m always pretty amazed by the level of creativity and originality he inputs into stories whose human elements greatly outweigh the fantastical ones. This book, much like Cloud Atlas and 2014’s The Bone Clocks, is set in many different time periods, and through the passage of that time and the melding of different genres, he is able to dissect ideas and emotions like grief, loneliness, and alienation in a way that tugs at the heart strings and fills your mind with wonder. This book is a bit different though, not only in length, being almost half the size of most of his books. The story exists in the same world as The Bone Clocks and its villains are the same as well, but this is a much more contained story, with almost the story’s entire action taking place within a few small blocks. And the real big difference between this book and Mitchell’s others? It is look-under-your-bed-and-grab-a-nightlight scary, much in the same way House of Leaves is. The eponymous house is one scary place, a kind of artifact of a frozen moment in time, and once inside, you won’t ever leave. The book is divided into sections, beginning in 1979 and ending in 2015. Every nine years, in an unassuming alley, a little black door appears that leads to Slade House. You will be greeted by name, and inside, you will find what your heart desires. But it is really a trap set by a set of twins, who are, for a lack of a better word, “soul vampires”, who feast on the essence of the meek and desperate in order to stay young. Whether it is a young boy who finds a desirable and cool friend within the garden walls, a divorced police detective looking for a sordid affair or an overweight teenage girl who is willing to do anything for social validation and the affection of her unrequited crush, all become ensnared in this labyrinth to cruelty and selfishness. The book has many moments that surprised me by who scary and how cruel this story gets with its twists and turns. Within the house itself, a person’s reality, under the right influence, can be anything, from an old silent film where you are rescued by Charlie Chaplin to a Halloween Party and even the pub down the street. But despite these dark elements, there is a hint of playfulness here and a hint of tragedy as well as it pertains to the passage of time and the wounds it sometimes fails to heal. If you are new to Mitchell (I hope not), he has written an excellent and rather fun introduction into his wide and beautiful world. It is most definitely a journey worth taking. 
Rating: 5/5

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