Slade House by David Mitchell

slade houseEvery nine years someone disappears inside sinister Slade House, a house no one but its intended victims seem able to find. The quest to solve the riddle of Slade House will lead several innocent characters to their doom, while a final confrontation with the evil that resides there threatens to unleash its malevolent force upon the world…

Slade House is a recent book from David Mitchell, author of such epic, genre-warping works as Cloud Atlas (adapted into a film in 2012) and Black Swan Green. This novel expands upon characters and situations first introduced in his The Bone Clocks, although it is not necessary to have read that work in order to understand this one.  As in his earlier works, Mitchell uses time as a structuring device, with each chapter narrated by a different character in a different time-period.  The author’s careful attention to period-appropriate slang and pop-cultural references in these sections helps plant the reader firmly in each character’s milieu, and the sympathy generated for otherwise unlikable characters through this technique is one of the major achievements of this book.

While Slade House is described and marketed as a “haunted house” tale, it reads more like a straightforward fantasy/speculative fiction novella aimed at a Young Adult audience. The villains of the book are revealed at the end of the first chapter as a set of telepathic twins who have mastered the occult arts and then created Slade House as a sort of immersive mirage to lure victims into their “time-bubble” where their souls can be drained by the psychic vampires. Their efforts eventually run into a snag which, in the interest of keeping this column spoiler-free, the readers will simply have to discover for themselves.

Ultimately, Slade House is a quick, well-written read that touches on the classic theme of good versus evil with a cursory examination of the ethics of revenge thrown into the mix. Those in search of scares, however, might find themselves disappointed.

(Chris Fox, Central Library)

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