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Slade House

by David Mitchell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Horologists (3)

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2,9742394,108 (3.78)1 / 279
Follows the narrative of five different people who disappear through a mysterious door in an unassuming alleyway that leads to Slade House, owned by a peculiar brother and sister, and vanish completely from the outside world. Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you'll find the entrance to Slade House: a surreal place where visitors see what they want to see, including some things that should be impossible. Every nine years, the house's residents--an odd brother and sister--extend a unique invitation to someone who's different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it's already too late.… (more)

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 One LibraryThing, One Book: Slade House: First Impressions36 unread / 36jeshakespeare, November 2015

» See also 279 mentions

English (232)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  All languages (240)
Showing 1-5 of 232 (next | show all)
This isn't my normal type of read but thought I'd try something different. It was well really well written and liked the style. It also kept me at the edge of my seat until about 1/2 way through then I felt it was getting a bit predictable. Also, the ending left me unsatisfied. ( )
  TheHobbyist | Mar 6, 2023 |

Welcome to Slade House. Soooo glad you managed to make your way here. Slade Alley does have this habit of disappearing into thin air, you know. And if you manage to find its entrance, it’s so easy to miss the little door to the sumptuous garden. Even if you’re looking for it! But now you’re here, let us keep you company during these blissful hours. They may well be your last...

Prior to reading this book, I only knew David Mitchell through his [b:Cloud Atlas|49628|Cloud Atlas|David Mitchell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1406383769s/49628.jpg|1871423]. Reading that novel, I had been impressed by Mitchell’s ability to combine wildly diverse genres and to convincingly give voice to different narrators, all within a grand, perfectly controlled structure.

Slade House is a much slenderer and less ambitious work and yet it shares certain elements with the earlier novel. The book takes us from 1979 to 2015, with each of its 5 sections set in October at intervals nine years apart. Each segment (except for the last) is narrated by the “guest” lured to Slade House. Mitchell’s genius in conveying different narrative voices is as brilliant as ever and, in each case, the period and the setting are masterfully evoked. The structure necessitates a degree of repetition, but this never annoys – rather it gives the novel the feel of a dark ritual.

Some critics have hailed the originality of Slade House. In reality, Mitchell taps into several common tropes of genre fiction, managing to blend them into one gripping book. Nominally a “haunted house” supernatural tale, Slade House also has elements of psychological horror, noir (including a detective “anti-hero” in its second part), time-travel (of sorts), crime fiction, “missing person” thriller, Harry-Potter-like dark fantasy, all (ironically) played out against a very realistic backdrop and featuring very credible characters. If there is such a thing as a postmodern ghost story, this would be it.

Unfortunately, without denying that this is a haunting and quite scary yarn, my initial enthusiasm dampened somewhat as the novel progressed. Being a supernatural tale, Mitchell has some explaining to do if he is to give his novel an internal logic. Since he does away with the omniscient third person narrator, he resorts to monologues by certain characters, which are very obviously meant to fill the reader in. Admittedly, Mitchell tries to incorporate these passages into the plot (one of the characters is berated for revealing too much), but at times we seem to see through the author’s workings – in other words, art does not always manage to conceal art.

What irked me most, however, was the final segment. Having suspended disbelief without particular difficulty throughout the book, we are then expected to accept a twist which takes us up to a different level of fantasy. I found this rather too sudden a gear-change. Reading other reviews, I understand that the ending makes reference to Mitchell’s earlier novel [b:The Bone Clocks|20819685|The Bone Clocks|David Mitchell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1398205538s/20819685.jpg|26959610] and is more effective if one has read that first. So perhaps I should now get my hands on The Bone Clocks and then book a return stay at Slade House! ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
Lord, that was creepily atmospheric. And I was super super into it and then...it fell down. There's a chunk of exposition in the last third that explains fucking everything which was cool, until it wasn't (and if you read this, I think you'll know what I mean). Then there's the thing that becomes the MacGuffin, that felt too convenient, in the way that villainous speeches feel too convenient. But it was definitely creepalicious and shivery, like the way [b: We Have Always Lived in the Castle|89724|We Have Always Lived in the Castle|Shirley Jackson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1415357189s/89724.jpg|847007] is creepy and shivery but with more mystical woo.

Overall, I liked it, but the ending was kind of confusing. Maybe I just need to knuckle down and read [b: The Bone Clocks|20819685|The Bone Clocks|David Mitchell|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1398205538s/20819685.jpg|26959610] because they are sorta connected. And also, I just really want to sit at the cool kids table.

( )
  wonderlande | Jan 1, 2023 |
This is massively inventive. A pair of twins have discovered how to halt time and evade death by storing their bodies in a secret location where time is stopped. Only problem is that this mechanism need to be recharged every 9 years with a soul of someone with psychic powers.
We follow 4 different "guests" as they visit Slade House, are lured in and their soul devoured. The way that each guest is able to communicate with the next, but is not always successful in being able to prevent what takes place adds to the horror of it all.
After the second I was wondering how the author would bring this cycle to a close. It takes a bit of trickery to do so, and that felt a little bit at odds with the remainder of the book. It was all very well constructed, it felt largely self consistent. The final chapter did feel slightly at odds with the previous ones though, and I can't quite put my finger on why. ( )
  Helenliz | Jun 29, 2022 |
The ending is a bit abrupt. Where did Dr. Iris Marinus-Fenby come from? The last chapter also introduced a few totally new elements. Nevertheless, it is an interesting and absorbing read. The scene where Iris reveals herself to the Grayers at the hospital and outwits them was fascinating. Mitchell writes well and the dialogues feel real. He unveils the mystery of the Grayers layer by layer, sucking you in. Worth a read. ( )
1 vote siok | Jun 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 232 (next | show all)
“Tonight feels like a board game co-designed by MC Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever,” observes a spooked member of a university’s paranormal society in David Mitchell’s manically ingenious new novel, Slade House. It’s hard not to read the assessment as the author’s compressed verdict on his own Halloween-timed offering, but the book is much more besides.

Each fresh product of Mitchell’s soaring imagination functions as an echo chamber for both his previous ideas and his oeuvre to come, components in the grand project he calls his “uber-novel”. But while entire doctoral theses, complete with Venn diagrams, are being written about Mitchellian intertextuality, readers anticipating the heft of his earlier multi-narratives Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas and most recently The Bone Clocks can step off the ghost train right here.

If this faux-scary, read-in-one-sitting crowd-pleaser has a single mission, it is to enjoy itself. Think The Bone Clocks’s naughty little sister in a fright wig, brandishing a sparkler, yelling “Boo!” – and highlighting an element of Mitchell’s talent that has been present but underexploited from the beginning of the writer’s award-studded career: a rich seam of comedy.

Only one year has elapsed since The Bone Clocks was published. The fact that Slade House germinated from a Twitter short story and blossomed into a work of just over 200 pages with such speed is evidence that time flies when you’re having a good time in a Wonderland of your own creation. Down Mitchell’s rabbit hole, the warren’s Supernatural Wing has expanded.

The good-versus-evil spirit war enacted in The Bone Clocks was its most overwrought and frustrating element, but there have always been ghosts in the Mitchell machine. Now, in a fresh riff on an old theme, the writer parodies his phantoms. Faustian pacts, shape-shifters, “psychovoltage”, soul-theft, reality bubbles, a liquid called banjax (a name almost as cheesy as Avatar’s Unobtanium), and characters who say, “I’d lay off the particle physics, doc, if I were you”: they’re all at the fun house party, flexing their similes and tooting their paper whistles.

While time separates the novel’s five stories, set at nine-year intervals from 1979 to the present day, place unites them. It is to Slade House, accessed via a tiny iron door in an alley, that twin soul-vampires Norah and Jonah Grayer lure their living prey. Will the deftly sketched characters we come so swiftly to care about, sometimes despite ourselves, ever emerge from the Tardis-like space they innocently enter?

“Our scoutmaster told me to get lost, so I did, and it took the Snowdonia mountain rescue service two days to find my shelter,” declares Nathan Bishop, 13 years old, and clearly on the autistic spectrum. He and his mother have been invited to a musical soiree at Slade House. Is the Valium he popped to blame for his hallucinations there, or is something more chilling at work?

Fast-forward to 1988, where sleazy, racist CID man Gordon Edmonds is researching a lead on the Bishops’ unexplained disappearance and romancing a fragrant widow. Nine years later, students from a Paranormal Society field trip enter the equation and, to add more grit to the Vaseline, as the now-vanished Edmonds would phrase it, they become fatally imperilled too. In 2006, the sister of one of them circles the same drain.

As the novellas merge and climax in the present day with the re-emergence of a key character from Mitchell’s back catalogue, familiar shadows – from Harry Potter, Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Matrix, Les Enfants Terribles, The Truman Show, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, The Turn of the Screw and The Rocky Horror Picture Show – dance on the wall. To re cast one of Nathan Bishop’s observations: if I had 50p for every cultural nod, wink and meta-reference I’d have to get out my calculator.

“When something is two-dimensional and hackneyed, this is how to fix it: identify an improbable opposite and mix it, implausibly, into the brew,” Mitchell once told the Paris Review. Vending-machine horror tropes, believable characters, wild farce, existential jeopardy, meta-fictional jokes: into the cauldron they go. Mitchell is at home in this kitchen. Along with the movie industry, he knows that playing goosebumps for laughs is a winning formula. Horror says aloud what religious doctrine often prefers to sidestep: if you believe in cosmic good, you cannot ignore the notion of cosmic evil. Supplement fear with hilarity, and the unbearable becomes bearable. In the gathering darkness, David Mitchell’s illuminated pumpkin lamp is smiling a huge, crazed smile.
added by browner56 | editThe Guardian, Liz Jensen (Oct 29, 2015)
David Mitchell’s novels are flecked with meaningful coincidences, to borrow Carl Jung’s description of synchronicity. Characters recur from one of his books to the next. So do images and ideas.

Mr. Mitchell’s best-known and most ambitious novel is “Cloud Atlas” (2004), a suite of interfolded novellas that skip purposefully between eras and temperaments. It seemed, in that novel, that there was nothing this writer could not do. Intellect, feeling, narrative brawn — his kit bag opened and both the Johnstown flood and a rescue skiff poured out.

His most recent novel, “The Bone Clocks” (2014), was nearly as ambitious but felt like a misfire. His gifts were put in service of a plot — there were psychic powers, creepy villains, an epic showdown between good and evil — that felt soft and formulaic.

This was a pastiche of second-rate fantasy fiction that actually read, quite often, like second-rate fantasy fiction. Mr. Mitchell’s intertextual gamesmanship — the recurring characters and so on — began to seem, as a friend said to me, “less like Yoknapatawpha and more like Marvel.”

Mr. Mitchell’s slim new novel, “Slade House,” is a sequel of sorts to “The Bone Clocks,” although it’s closer to being a sly footnote. It first came to life as a short story, “The Right Sort,” which the author published in 140-character snippets on Twitter. It’s grown into something more.

On a macro level, “Slade House” plunges us again into a battle between two blocs of immortals. One group consists of soul vampires; humans must die for them to live. The other is vastly more pleasant.

On a micro level, this can make for malevolent fun. A pair of immortal twins, Jonah and Norah, occupy — or appear to occupy — a grand old pile in downtown London, accessible only through a small metal door in an alleyway. It opens very rarely, and when it does, it admits a victim.

Once they’ve found an acceptable soul to suck, the twins share it as if it were a milkshake into which two straws have been sunk. We’re given tasting notes. “A sprinkle of last-minute despair,” Jonah comments, “gives a soul an agreeably earthy aftertaste.”

After killing and inhaling the soul of a loutish cop, “The twins gasp and let out soft groans like junkies shooting up when the drug hits the bloodstream.” By the time the officer saw something, it was too late to say anything.

“Slade House” is told in five chapters, spaced nine years apart. The first takes place in 1979, the last in 2015. In each chapter, a victim enters the compound. Muggles will not do. The twins need “engifted” humans with potent “psychovoltage.”
Mr. Mitchell tips this book into some dark corners. One character is made to viscerally understand how suffering is much worse if someone you love disappears rather than simply dies.

“Grief is an amputation,” this woman says, “but hope is incurable hemophilia: You bleed and bleed and bleed. Like Schrödinger’s cat inside a box you can never ever open.”

Mr. Mitchell remains a fluent and, when he wishes to be, witty writer. It is hard to disapprove of a novel in which one of the most likable characters is a young woman named Sally Timms, clearly in homage to a lead singer in the venerable British punk band the Mekons.

As this book moves deeper into the fripperies of its ghost story, Mr. Mitchell is savvy enough to have his characters, every so often, blow raspberries at the expense of all the solemnity. “This is all sounding a bit ‘Da Vinci Code’ for me,” one says. And: “What I see is the wackometer needle climbing.”

Alas, the wackometer needle does climb. Characters deliver big chunks of artless exposition so readers can keep up with metaphysical nuances. The dialogue often has a Lovecraft-meets-Hardy Boys flavor: “Something bad’s happening in this house, Sal. We need to get out.”

“Slade House” is Mr. Mitchell’s shortest and most accessible novel to date, and you don’t have to have read “The Bone Clocks” to comprehend it. Readers who come to this book first, however, will get only a slivery glimpse of this writer’s talent. Our seats are the intellectual version of “obstructed view,” as cheap theater tickets sometimes say.

The biggest drawback of “Slade House” might that it simply isn’t very scary. These characters aren’t alive enough for us to fear for them when they’re in peril. With the possible exception of Sally Timms, we’re not invested in them.

As it happens, I read this novel alone and mostly at night in a fairly remote cabin in upstate New York. There’s no cellphone reception here.

I’m as susceptible to scary stories as the next person. After seeing “The Blair Witch Project,” I wouldn’t go on my back porch alone at night, even to smoke, for two months. But “Slade House” slid right off me, even as the wind howled outside.

In “Cloud Atlas,” Mr. Mitchell wrote: “Power, time, gravity, love. The forces that really kick ass are all invisible.” Fear belongs on that list, too.
added by browner56 | editNew York Times, Dwight Garner (Oct 22, 2015)

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Mitchellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bagnoli, KatiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oldenburg, VolkerÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Whatever Mum's saying's drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds.
Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable haemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed. (p. 142)
The wackometer needle is stuck on 11. (p. 171)
Think about it: about the squalid, shitty reasons that people murder each other in large numbers now. Oil; the drug trade; control over occupied territories and the word 'occupied'. Water. God's true name, His true will, who owns access to Him. The astonishing belief that Iraq can be turned into Sweden by deposing its dictator and smashing the place up a bit. (p. 172)
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Follows the narrative of five different people who disappear through a mysterious door in an unassuming alleyway that leads to Slade House, owned by a peculiar brother and sister, and vanish completely from the outside world. Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you'll find the entrance to Slade House: a surreal place where visitors see what they want to see, including some things that should be impossible. Every nine years, the house's residents--an odd brother and sister--extend a unique invitation to someone who's different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it's already too late.

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Book description
Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.

Down the road from a working-class pub, along a narrow brick alley, you just might find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't. Every nine years, the residents of Slade House extend an invitation to someone who's different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside? For those who find out, it's already too late...

Spanning decades, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, Slade House is a haunted house story as only David Mitchell could imagine it.

Haiku summary
Welcome to Slade House:
eat, drink and be merry, but
you will never leave.

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