Friday, November 20, 2015

Slade House

by David Mitchell
238 pgs

I was surprised when I learned that David Mitchell had a new book coming out so soon after The Bone Clocks was published just last year. He’s not one of those a-book-a-year authors. It made more sense when I learned that it originated from a short story Mitchell was writing via Twitter, but which grew until it became more of a novella in length. It’s a one-night read and is a sequel of sorts to The Bone Clocks, although reading it is really not prerequisite in this case.

Slade House only exists in our world on the last Saturday of October, every nine years. It’s accessed through a small iron door in an alley, and is the home of Norah and Jonah Grayer, twin soul-vampires who must feed every nine years in order to maintain their, and Slade House’s existence. They need to feed on the souls of humans who possess a level of psychic ability. So they lure unwitting victims into the alley, through the iron door, and into Slade House, where they feed and restore their own psychic abilities and leave behind an empty husk of their victim.

The book is comprised of five separate stories, each one taking place at nine-year intervals, but even with the skipping forward in time, the stories remain interconnected. The first victim we learn of is a young boy and his mother, the second is a man investigating a lead in their disappearance. The next is a group of students from the Paranormal Society, who have heard rumors that Slade House exists. The next is the sister of one of those students, trying to follow a trail of breadcrumbs. The last is a key character from one of Mitchell’s earlier books, who ties Slade House into the ever-growing and interconnected mega-story that Mitchell appears to be writing.

At its core, Slade House is a haunted-house story. But the mood and feel for the story is atypical from what you’d expect from one. Mitchell doesn’t use mysterious noises or startling apparitions to generate fear in his readers. Instead he lets you watch as one by one the Grayers’ victims are subtly hooked and then slowly reeled in. You know, or you think you know, what’s going to happen to them, but the real enjoyment in the story is waiting for the moment when they each realize that something inexplicable is taking place. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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