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SLADE HOUSE
By DAVID MITCHELL (Random House; 2015)

An unabashed horror novel by a mainstream literary darling that proves two things: 1). That non-genre affiliated writers can bring a unique and vital energy that sets their work apart from those of career horror scribes, and 2). That writing genre fiction can often free up literary authors in a good way. Of course those things donít always occur, but in SLADE HOUSE, written by the NEW YORKER-vetted novelist David Mitchell, they do, resulting in a strong and affecting work that never loses sight of the primary obligation of all genre fiction: to entertain.

     The setting is the universe of Mitchellís previous novel THE TIME CLOCKS. That quasi-science fictional epic was drafted in a time-tripping format that was all-but invented by Mitchell (in previous novels like GHOSTWRITTEN and CLOUD ATLAS), with each chapter marked by a different time period and narrative voice, a format shared by SLADE HOUSE.

     The subject, as the title infers, is a country house. This place is accessible through a tiny door in the incredibly narrow Sladeís Alley, situated in London. Of course, the door to Slade House only appears at certain times, and is only accessible to psychically gifted people. Not that entering Slade House, which assumes the forms of a country estate, a futuristic party pad and a pub, is any sort of reward, as inhabiting the house are a twin brother and sister who appear in various none-too-friendly guises.

     The five-part narrative begins in 1979, with Nathan, a Valium addicted teenager, narrating his experiences in Slade House together with his mother. Part two occurs in 1988, with Gordon, a tough police inspector searching for Nathan and his mom, whoíve been missing since the events described in the preceding chapter, taking over narration duties. In part three the twentyish Lucy, whoís part of a college paranormal society investigating the disappearances of Nathan, his mother and Inspector Gordon, takes the narrative reigns, and in part four Lucyís older sister, a journalist, investigates her siblingís disappearance--and naturally finds out a bit too much. Iíll refrain from giving out any info about part five, as doing so would ruin the mystery whose unraveling is integral to oneís enjoyment of SLADE HOUSE.

     In form SLADE HOUSE resembles the novels of Peter Straub and T.M. Wright--two writers this novelís target audience are unlikely to have ever read--in its multi-faceted narrative and air of horrific mystery that isnít ever entirely explained. The novel is further enhanced by David Mitchellís genius for characterization, with five narrators whose voices are all extremely distinct, and also a talent for plotting that never takes an expected turn.

     

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