Published by Random House
Publication date: October 27th 2015
At least once in every reader’s life a book comes along where they think ‘I wish the author had written more about that.’ For fans of David Mitchell that wish often comes true, thanks to his ability to resurrect characters in different iterations and insert them in subtle ways from one novel to the next. In his last novel, The Bone Clocks, there was a supernatural element on the periphery of the human plot. This subplot was interesting in and of itself, but far removed from the crux of the novel until the final third of the book when it exploded (literally). At the time, I felt as if the human world was plot enough, but did think Mitchell’s new supernatural world of immortality was compelling. Now, in Slade House, he introduces Norah and Jonah Grayer, attractive predatory twins who also follow the Shaded Way and need human souls in their quest for eternal life. Told in chapters set every nine years for when they feed, Slade House is a book of psychological terror and physical horror showcased in Mitchell’s inimitable prose.
In Slade House there is nothing so déclassé or obvious as brain eating zombies. Norah and Jonah are elegant practitioners of the fine art of mind control and visual deception. To this end Slade House is the orison—a pseudo-reality or hologram-like world—where their “birth-bodies” are kept in stasis in a room known as the Lacuna. Humans of the right sort (those who are psychically gifted) are lured into the Slade House reality by showing them what they want to see. Once inside, there is no way out and all that is left is for the Grayers to suck said human’s soul out of their body as the paralyzed and partially dead donor watches their own soul depart. Gruesome and delightful if you like being scared, appalled, and fascinated all at the same time. But this act of killing is almost the least interesting part of Slade House. Instead, it is Mitchell’s orison, the reality bubble he weaves around the world of Norah and Jonah and their lives that is so mesmerizing. Like the candle flame found in their Lacuna staring into the pages of Slade House is hypnotizing, the words luring you further into the story until the thought of putting it down is impossible.
Many of the concepts and terminology found in The Bone Clocks are also in Slade House, but both novels stand alone. Mitchell’s effortless creation of the silky evil that is Norah and Jonah as they become whatever their victims need before they reveal themselves befits a novel of much greater heft than the 220 pages that comprise Slade House, but don’t be fooled, this novel packs such a wallop of edgy, literary terror and surprise that nervous laughter is the companion to a clenched gut. This is perfect reading for dark and stormy nights so let someone else hand out the candy this Halloween, you’ve got better things to do.