Slade House: A Novel, David Mitchell, author; Thomas Judd, narrator
I love David Mitchell. He stretches credibility just far enough to force you to question it, but then he pulls you back into reality and grounds you again. I think that in order to fully appreciate this short novel you have to suspend disbelief, at times. It sometimes bordered on the sublime and then moved on to the ridiculous!
As the mystery of Slade House reveals itself to the reader, it takes many shapes. There is a malevolent set of twins, of indeterminate age, living in Slade House. They will stop at nothing to become immortal even though they take innocent lives in the process. They absorb the energy they need to stay alive from their victims. The hero of this story has been condemned to a life that never ends, while the villains are trying to achieve that same end. One views immortality as a “life sentence”, while the other seeks it as a reward.
I, as a reader, wanted only to remain in the moment, reading on with anticipation, but the visitors to Slade House wanted only to escape that moment. Most often, they were too naïve to realize the danger they were in or too frightened to think rationally about what was happening to them until it was too late.
The story begins in 1979 and ends in the present day, 2015. It moves through five separate time periods, each 9 years apart. Each successive character or victim has some relationship or involvement with the prior victims and some connection to the preceding time periods. Each segment contains common elements. Some characters return from previous books. All of the victims have a connection to the pub, Fox and Hounds. In the search for Slade House, all of the victims experience the same out of time experience. The house and its surroundings seem to be ephemeral, but once it is entered it holds them and leaves them with a lasting impression.
This book is brief; there are no wasted words. The author has created an imaginative and exciting thriller with a mystery that seems unsolvable. It is the stuff of science fiction. It does not quite make the grade into the stuff of horror. There are shadowy figures, weird portraits, ghost sightings, changing landscapes, and strange sounds and voices, but these supernatural occurrences do not make you shut your eyes in fear, rather they make you want to keep your eyes open to read on and discover how the twins, Norah and Jonah lure their victims. What will be the fate of their victims, and what will be the eventual fate of the twins? Who will be able to stop them? Can anything stop them? When it ends, the reader will sense that there is a sequel coming, and the sequel will be good!