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A Stir of Echoes (1958)

by Richard Matheson

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8112520,799 (3.68)56
Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he's hearing the private thoughts of the people around him-and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom's existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!This eerie ghost story, by award-winning author of Hell House and I Am Legend, inspired the acclaimed 1999 film starring Kevin Bacon.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This is a ghost story and the book creeped me out. Not however because it is a ghost story. This isn't a scary book with respect to ghosts. There's an attempt to build all that up but the ghost bit, it didn't really work for me except ... except that the characters and worries in here get under your skin. My skin anyway. This is a creepy book because it digs into the underbelly of the mythical suburban family life of the 1950's. A couple of the neighbors were way too effed up and nasty. I was offended a number of times (multiple 'joking' references to punching pregnant women in the belly). Then there's the babysitter ... Some people really like this book. There are a bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings on this. I can see someone who likes getting creeped out giving this 4 or 5 stars. The end surprised me, but not entirely. Matheson plays fair with the reader. I'll probably have a few nightmares from this one.

Matheson has written some famous stuff. He wrote the story for what became the classic Twilight Zone episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 feet' with William Shatner. Among other things he also wrote 'I Am Legend' which was first turned into the film 'Last Man on Earth' then 'Omega Man' and more recently into the film 'I Am Legend'. This story, 'A Stir of Echoes' was made into a movie as well, about 20 years ago, although I never saw it. Others include Hell House, Duel, The Incredible Shrinking Man and more. My favorite film adaptation of a story would be 'Somewhere In Time' with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. ( )
  RBeffa | Oct 14, 2020 |
I thought that I knew basically what to expect when reading this book. I had seen the movie and thought that it was better than the other major ghost movie that summer: The Sixth Sense. And knowing and liking Matheson's novels, I had high hopes. Unfortunately they weren't quite satisfied. Instead I got a book that was interesting but also annoying. The story is about Tom Wallace, a man who mistakenly has a psychic power awoken in him after a bout of hypnosis by his brother-in-law. And rather than being a fun capability, Wallace can't control it and his life is thrown into a shambles. And that is the bulk of my problem with the book. For the majority of the story, Wallace is denying his power and wondering what is happening to him despite all the clues that are present and everything that he can do. And worst, his wife is a whiner who is also too dumb to realize the extent of what is happening. OK, so maybe part of the wife's personality is due to when the novel was written (the copyright is 1958) but it is still annoying. If the two of them could have dealt with the powers in a more useful and/or understanding way, then it would have made all the difference. Instead of a richly powerful story, we end up with good concept and characters that annoy. Definitely not one of Matheson's better works. ( )
  dagon12 | Oct 12, 2020 |
I really enjoyed reading this one! I watched the movie starring Kevin Bacon when it came out and I thought it did a great job with updating this source material into modern times. They do keep some of the same elements here and there, though they change the person who was murdered and why. I liked that since I then went into this book cold and had no clue who did what to whom or why. I will say though that this book was published in the late 1950s and you feel that throughout. The woman in this story are wholly dependent on their husbands and you get a claustrophobic feeling after a while in this suburban community where everyone knows each other and sees each other for dinner parties it seems like every week.

"A Stir of Echoes" follows Tom Wallace. Tom is happily married to his wife Anne. They have a toddler named Richard and are expecting another baby. He works at a plant and seems content with his life. When his brother in law comes to visit, they all go to their next door neighbor's home. Eventually things turn into a discussion of hypnotism and then Tom agrees to be hypnotized. His brother in law telling him to let his mind be "free" seems to have awakened something in Tom. Now Tom is seeing ghosts and is able to sense and see what others are feeling and doing. With Tom getting increasingly ill due to his newfound abilities and wanting to rid himself of the ghost that seems to call nightly, things get stirred up in the sleepy suburban community that is not all that it seems.

Tom I thought was a great narrator. We find out that he loves his wife and feels ambivalent or indifferent to most of their neighbors. When his mind gets to be "free" though he becomes more attuned to them and sickened by their behavior. He feels trapped anytime he is near one of the women in the community who berates her husband and seems up for having an affair. The other neighbors definitely have a toxic marriage. The husband hates his wife for getting pregnant and talks of having affairs. I think that Matheson does a great job of contrasting Tom with them, but also showing how many people had marriages like this and you didn't see it because even when things were said and done in front of you, you ignored it.

Tom's wife Anne is a partner in this. She is angry and resentful of what this new ability is doing to Tom and turns away from him at times. I can see why after a while. This has to be alien to her. Her husband is supposed to provide for the family and protect them and now she is scared of what he may see that he chooses not to tell her.

The writing I think was pitch perfect for this time period. The flow works from beginning to end I thought and I didn't have a problem with where the story was going.

The setting of the late 1950s and early 1960s I think makes sense for this book since I don't know if the things revealed in this book in a contemporary time would matter? Or I don't think it would work without it taking place in a suburban community from this day and age. I like the contrast of things in this new type of community not being as shiny and new and wholesome as one would think.

The ending was definitely a surprise and I liked how things got resolved with Tom's ability. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
I loved the book over the movie primarily because of the internal struggles. Coming to grips with telepathy reminded me a lot of Stephen King, which is of course very backwards. I see why SK touted Matheson as one of the greats. It's all about magical realism and the details that center everything in regular life, and then pull the character, kicking and screaming, into the fantastic.

It is only a minor complication that the novel was a ghost story. It didn't even need to end up that way, but it did. The resolution only made me think about the unwritten resolutions, and the story continues on in my mind. Any novel that builds a life of its own, despite itself, should be considered a great novel. I still want to keep reading. :)
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
The perfect suburban ghost story. Matheson always did have a way with blending the mundane job of living a working life with the supernatural forces that might swirl just beyond perception and will rush in given a chance. His work was consistently at the top of the field and A STIR OF ECHOES is no exception.

It's the simplest of simple plots. A working man gets hypnotized, hypnotist accidently opens the man's mind to the great beyond, and man starts to experience the wider world of the weird beyond his normal day to day life - including the strange woman in his living room.

Matheson makes it work by populating the tale with believeable characters, and by hitting us with several set pieces that not only ramp up the tension but are genuinely creepy and have that 'cold tingle in the spine' moment that marks all the best ghost stories.

The Kevin Bacon movie went all out on the special effects for this one, but they weren't needed. It's the quiet moments, spent alone in the dark with what's inside - and outside - your mind that makes this so effective.

For me, one of the best haunting novels ever written. It's short, fast, and packs a real punch. ( )
1 vote williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
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Sometimes within the brain's old / ghostly house, / I hear, far off, at some forgotten / door, / A music and an eerie faint carouse / And stir of echoes down the / creaking floor. -- "Chambers of Imagery," Archibald MacLeish
For Chuck and Helen with affection
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The day it all started - a hot, August Saturday - I'd gotten off work a little after twelve.
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Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he's hearing the private thoughts of the people around him-and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom's existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!This eerie ghost story, by award-winning author of Hell House and I Am Legend, inspired the acclaimed 1999 film starring Kevin Bacon.

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