“Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.” Young Gunz had it right as the musical equivalent of Slade House, David Mitchell’s new novel. What’s better than watching a horror flick? Experiencing one through storytelling. This book is a near perfect October read. It’s a bit chilling. It has orisons and realms and psychic telepathy and twins. Twins is obviously the creepiest part.
THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE THING THOUGH is that characters are reincarnated from The Bone Clocks (and other novels by Mitchell). In fact, Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, well, technically, that’s our world, but with the same sci-fi elements added in. The second best part is Slade House is the first in a five part series about these worlds and as it ends on a sort of body-pilfering cliff hanger I can only sit very impatiently for the next one. If you have never read David Mitchell, or you have and you adore his sick sense of reality mashed with the other reality (a bit of Matrix if you well) then you will really appreciate Slade House as another element of the saga. If you’re not yet convinced, here is the rest of this review.
Slade House is a tricky little venom-filled tale of multiple Law & Order episodes except there’s only one cop and he meets a sort of untimely demise. The reader has to travel through each outsider’s experience with Slade House and the little, black iron door in order to figure out how the disguise is working. Through each chapter the reader experiences the guest’s relationship with Slade House and a few clues to answer the mystery. The problem is (and it’s a terrifyingly good problem) that the reader never can tell what’s real and what’s the facade of Slade House. In every character interaction I was second guessing whether or not the other character was real, or if they were a figment of the house. In this way, the book is the easiest read in the world because at some point, you just want to know. I imagine it’s a bit like American Horror Story Hotel where everyone can be a victim, but you’re not sure which is next – you know, minus the whole first twenty minutes of devastation that made me have to turn it off. I’m basing this whole comparison on reading a summary of the show because I didn’t have the umph to actually watch it.
There are other fantastical science fiction things that David Mitchell wouldn’t leave the reader without. He describes the silver star dust globe that our souls become outside of our bodies. The way souls can strand into new shapes like a baked good, a cloud, or a whisper. He describes horror without having all the blood and guts. Like the first Paranormal Activity (when the series was still good) when it’s about human to human relationships and less about the rot in your stomach. David Mitchell makes you focus on the relationships between the characters while he’s wheeling and dealing the riddle behind the screen. He is the Wizard of Oz of odd fiction. Typically, as you know, I read literary fiction, but every Halloween I like to delve into something with a little surprise and a little dead-stiffness. This was just the story.
With characters like the young Nathan who might at some point become a mad scientist with his deftness in understanding the world, his mother who is nagged by his constant wonder, and just wants to escape the poverty they’ve nestled into in England. The cop, Gordon, who is surprised by his own flirtation, who has come to investigate Slade Alley for his captain and wants to be the protector of women’s hearts and their front gates. Sally who needs a heart warmer, and those Grayer twins who are ruthless, but somehow Norah G. is still quite likable. I’m interested to see what becomes of them in the next installment even though technically they are the villains.
It doesn’t help Mitchell’s cause that the book looks like a Little Golden Book, or the adult version. It’s such a quaint little package of a Mitchell book that the reader buys it thinking it will be both made of gold, but maddeningly simple. What they don’t tell you in the blurb is that you’ll be explaining the brain implosion to your significant other for an hour and a half after you finish the book. It’s a haunted house story where there doesn’t need to be a chainsaw or any “jump outs.” The house is a manifestation of the reader’s imagination.
I was engrossed in this tiny novel (tiny by Mitchell standards). I finished the last half of it in one sitting because I absolutely had to know what was going on. A story of suspense, spirit, and soul, it’s just spooky enough to not keep you up before bed, but past the edge of Goose Bumps. Let’s be honest though, any book with a dark alley (one lamp post) at its core will make any reader squirm in their seat. Can you tell by my references that my experience with horror/mystery/science fiction stopped suddenly at the age of eight?
Keep in mind, this is coming from a girl who could never really explain the science behind science fiction. I loved all the tidbits of time travel; Lacuna, Orison, Pyroblast, and telepathy between the characters. I loved that Slade House was a vision and a veil all at once to different characters. I love David Mitchell’s pacing because he can always keep me pushing. I loved this little yellow rod of a book and I think if you need a little terror in you life, and not in the form of breaking news, it’s arrived just suddenly from Mitchell’s fictional universe’s time table.