David Mitchell’s 2014 novel The Bone Clocks was considered one of the year’s very best. I read it, I liked it, and I moved on. It’s one of those books that is easy to admire but difficult to love. The novel tells the epic story, set across many decades, about soul vampires and a secret war of immortals played out in the shadows of our world. Slade House is set in the same world of The Bone Clocks but it’s not necessary to read the earlier book first. This isn’t a sequel so much as a spin-off, I guess. What’s interesting is how Mitchell presents the story in a very similar fashion: it’s set across multiple decades, with multiple first-person narrators passing the baton to one another as they progress the story – it’s almost like a series of short stories that makes up a novel-length narrative. But ignoring the obvious similarities, I found Slade House to be a very different book from The Bone Clocks. The 2014 epic (624 pages) is a contemporary fantasy with ‘magical realism’ played out with some rather big ideas – the 2015 Slade House is much shorter (238 pages) and is a creepy little haunted house story that’s more at ease, more fun.
I admire The Bone Clocks, but I adore Slade House.
Mitchell seems to be playing things a bit more loosely here and having more fun in the process. The result is an often terrifying and mystifying horror story where nothing’s ever quite as it seems. You’ve heard of unreliable narrators? Much of Slade House takes place in an unreliable universe.
There exists a door in Slade Alley that only appears once every nine years, allowing entrance to Slade House, an old mansion that’s trapped in time. Once you pass through that door, you’re caught in a web of lies and danger. Over the course of the book, we learn more about the house’s powers and its strange past. Curiosity begins drawing more and more people to Slade House after all the mysterious disappearances, which only brings more sacrifices to those who dwell behind the supernatural gateway.
It’s very cool stuff.
I found a whole lot to like about Slade House. David Mitchell’s books apparently interconnect, so my understanding of The Bone Clock’s secrets helped me to understand some of this novel’s stranger moments, but I still think it could be read by those totally unfamiliar with Mitchell. Me, I’m now more eager to check out the author’s earlier works. In the future, I’d like to see Mitchell return to the horror genre – he’s really good at it.
This review was cross-posted to Goodreads and Facebook.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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