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THE ROOM
By MICHAEL GREY (Corgi; 1990)

Iíve been exposed to an excess of crappy horror fiction over the years, yet Iíve long clung to the belief that to make it into print a novel must have something going for it. Well, I can now report that after reading this abysmal splatterpunk relic Iíve been disabused of that silly notion for good!

     There are so many things wrong with THE ROOM, the first (and thankfully only) novel by Canadian author Michael Grey, that itís difficult to know where to start the criticism. I suppose Iíll begin with the narrative, which posits that the will of a deceased man calls for two distant branches of his family to live together in his creepy mansion. Unconvincingly enough, the beneficiaries, represented by a guy named Bob and his teen daughters Harvest and Bounty, and also a gal named Rebecca and her teen sons Ron and Jamie, all readily agree to move into the house. Therein a sealed-off attic room lined with steel is discovered; inevitably the room is breached, revealing a large cocoon that births a shape-shifting creature that, in apparent homage to the similarly endowed Stephen King creation, is christened It.

     As with Kingís It, this one thrives on pain and apprehension, allowing for a multitude of splatterific set-pieces in which various unfortunates are tortured in a variety of unpleasant ways--a hairdryer jammed down a manís throat, a woman forced to bathe in broken glass, a guy impaled on a spike--before being devoured by the voracious critter. The thing also has psychic powers that affect the houseís inhabitants in various unpleasant ways, such as the celebratory orgies in which the family indulges every time It makes a kill.

     Like much of its splat-happy ilk, this novelís sole points of interest are the many ultra-gory set pieces, although the clumsy and frequently incoherent descriptions lessen their power considerably. Another problem is the perfunctory characterizations, which render the climactic passages, in which the family inevitably become food for the It, far less impacting than they might have been had we cared about any of the protagonists. In truth the supporting characters, in particular a bag lady and a lesbian prostitute, are better drawn and more sympathetic than any of the main players.

     I could go on about the Itís under explained origins and properties, as well as the many over-similarities to elements of HELLRAISER (another ďhomage?Ē) and the inexcusably rushed final pages, but Iíve already given this lousy novel far more space than it deserves. Suffice it to say that thereís an excellent reason this ROOM is so obscure, and, much like the sealed-off room of the title, it deserves to remain so. 

     

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