STARRED REVIEW
November 2015

The ultimate haunted house story

By David Mitchell
David Mitchell’s novel Slade House first came to life as a short story delivered in 140-character bursts on Twitter. That story, “The Right Sort,” is now the first entry in a chilling novel in stories that’s an intriguing companion piece to Mitchell’s 2014 novel, The Bone Clocks, an intricate saga of a war between two groups of time travelers.
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BookPage Fiction Top Pick, November 2015

David Mitchell’s novel Slade House first came to life as a short story delivered in 140-character bursts on Twitter. That story, “The Right Sort,” is now the first entry in a chilling novel in stories that’s an intriguing companion piece to Mitchell’s 2014 novel, The Bone Clocks, an intricate saga of a war between two groups of time travelers.

Set in an unnamed English factory town “more passed through than stopped at,” the action of Slade House unfolds at precise nine-year intervals on the last Saturday in October, in and around the imposing house that provides the novel’s title. Accessed through a black iron door in a brick wall flanking an impossibly narrow alley, it’s a virtual-reality canvas that becomes the scene for a succession of harrowing set pieces featuring twins Norah and Jonah Grayer, soul vampires compelled to find new victims to fuel their dream of eternal life. 

Though the novel’s narrative structure becomes obvious after the second tale, Mitchell is such an ingenious writer that each encounter with the shape-shifting character of Slade House feels both fresh and consistently spooky. The fate of each victim—whether an adolescent boy, a lustful police officer or a university student exploring the paranormal—is equally disturbing, as we grasp that fate in real time while hoping somehow it can be altered. And in the final story, “Astronauts,” set in 2015, Mitchell demonstrates how skillfully he’s able to maintain a high level of suspense as he simultaneously upends our expectations.

Mitchell’s tales can be enjoyed both by readers who want to decode their sometimes puzzling logic while deconstructing terms like “psychoesoterica” and “psychovoltage,” and those who are content simply to surrender themselves to the power of a scary story. Familiarity with Mitchell’s work is not required to appreciate Slade House, but his fans will delight in references to characters and scenes from earlier novels, which align with his intent to build what he has called an “übernovel” that links his persistent themes. 

“Tonight feels like a board game co-designed by M.C. Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever,” one character muses. That sly description offers an apt summary of a work that almost demands to be read in a single sitting. Just be sure to leave the lights on when you do.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Slade House

Slade House

By David Mitchell
Random House
ISBN 9780812998689

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