Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Slade House by David Mitchell


Think James Herbert's 'The Rats' on amphetamines.

Think Susan Hill's 'The Lady In Black' gone seriously sinister.

Think Steven King driving  'Christine' at 100MPH

The story is broken into five chapters. Each one is a story unto its self. As with 'The Bone Clocks' and 'Cloud Atlas,' Mitchell masterfully uses time, the passing of, as a tool by which the scenes are set. Within each chapter he crafts characters with consummate care; people you the reader are bound to identify with. In fact not so much identify as love. You effectively lead their short lives wanting them to succeed against all the odds. As each of the characters enters Slade House, from the moment that black iron door opens onto that impossible garden you find yourself rooting for them. The last person may have failed but surely, this time, this one, just once, will defeat that which waits within. It is then you realise that the author has placed an invisible chicken wire around your neck which hangs loosely at first and then, and his pacing is superb, as each layer of reality is peeled away like decaying wallpaper, so the chicken wire grows ever tauter as does your turning of the page get ever faster. This attachment forged between reader and characters is Mitchells masterstroke. For the reader, it is a tragedy.

The stylistic linguistics, Mitchell's invented words, only add to what is a very superior 'haunted house' type story. This, along with his sublime pacing and outstanding use of tension takes this novel to heights only a few horror books achieve. This novel is a spin-off from 'The Bone Clocks.' It is that books darker brother.

Slade House is a preposterous edifice. It simply cannot exist where it does and yet, apparently, it does. Entry to the building can only be gained via Slade Alley; an alley so thin, so tight, that only one person at a time is able to walk its menacing curves. The alley and the house also have a habit of disappearing.

The author fires his words like phosphorescent leaves that blow then scatter both illuminating scenes but fogging them when required. His detailing of events, his defining of characters, his describing of situations is immaculate. His is a voice of the 21st century. He doesn't write for the applause or the accolades he so justly receives, he writes because he wants to. He writes because he has to, he writes because it brings him joy and the boundless sense of pleasure are contagious.

His lyrical pyrotechnics illuminate rather than confuse the narrative lending an explosive element when such is needed. He selects his words then fires then like tiny literary projectiles the better to add colour and flavour to the tale. Then that chicken wire tightens again as the eventual end reaches its blistering climax.

David Mitchell knows no bounds. His ability to leap from one genre, whilst maintaining integrity and quality is amazing as is his natural talent for yarn spinning.
'The Bone Clocks' was shortlisted for the Man Booker, deservedly so. I like this better.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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