Slade House by David Mitchell
David Mitchell writes complex, time travelling, magical fiction. Previous works including The Cloud Atlas (2004), which I loved (though I haven’t been motivated to even try the movie version). Slade House is shorter than some of his earlier big whumpers (he has written some pretty long books…), but it does not disappoint.
The titular Slade House is quite mysterious and menacing, periodically appearing at the same time as a series of seemingly unrelated people disappear. Bad things are afoot here, but it’s not at all clear what is going on, or how to stop the horror.
Mitchell’s story is very tense and terrifying. It is told from first person viewpoints, which certainly adds to the mystery and the horror: it isn’t at all pleasant to have a first hand account of these events.
The characters are interesting and Mitchell deftly gets us to understand and sympathize with them in short order. In this, I admire his skillful writing.
For me, the biggest weakness in the story is that the supernatural underpinnings of the plot give us little way to guess what is coming next. Just when we think we understand what is happening, we discover that things are not what they seem. Magic is rather unpredictable, and this makes the story impossible to predict. It’s really not fair.
(Perhaps this objection is why I don’t generally read “horror” and supernatural stories–fairness to the reader demands the fictional world be comprehensible, not arbitrary.)
Overall, this is a well written story, if less that totally satisfying. But there is no outsmarting the storyteller. We have no choice bot go along for the ride. Fortunately, Mitchell is a master storyteller.
- David Mitchell, Slade House, New York, Random House, 2015.
Sunday Book Review