Saturday, January 09, 2016


"I let out a yelp of surprise like a trodden-on puppy and the small black iron door opens. Like it was only waiting to be asked. It waits, ajar..." and "I'm kneeling, I'm paralyzed, and I don't know what's happening. I try to move but no joy. Not even a finger. Not even my tongue. My body's the cage now, and I'm the one locked in. The only things working are my eyes and my brain." and "But when Marinus reaches up to touch the flowers, her hand passes clean through. [...] I turn around and see the end of the garden is erasing itself."

—from Slade House by David Mitchell


I just completed David Mitchell's Slade House (2015) in a few hours of reading. I couldn't put it down! It is a sequel of sorts to Mitchell's The Bone Clocks (2014), with both books delving into some of the same concepts and notions, but approaching them each in its own way. And each novel stands alone quite fine, but I think that Slade House is even stronger when read as a sequel to The Bone Clocks.


As I read, I am reminded of other books, other stories.

The namesake residence of Slade House and its relationship to it inhabitants reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." I can easily imagine Roderick and Madeline Usher living at Slade House.

The way that Slade House and Slade Alley appear (and/or disappear!) to visitors reminds me of the shifting streets and landscape of Stephen King's "Crouch End." The garden in its lushness and almost overbearing meticulous detail reminds me of the environment of Jeff VanderMeer's Area X in his novel Annihilation.

The myth of Persephone is referenced in many ways—in the abduction of an innocent, being stolen away to the the underworld, in making sure one doesn't eat or drink anything in the underworld since such ingestion or imbibing binds one to the place one has been taken. Or, perhaps this is a contemporary version of the story of Hansel and Gretel.

Then there are the metaphysical "Illuminati" soul-stealing vampires. I wasn't sure what pieces of literature I was hearing echoes of in Mitchell's book, although I recently read Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" again and the supernatural setting, manipulation of Goodman Brown and his wife Faith, and the malevolence lurking beneath the story all came rushing to the forefront for me.

Finally, there are so many echoes of other Mitchell novels and stories, that this easily fits into his own "personal" literary mythology.

And, as I stated above, it was well-written and the plot laid out such that I was compelled to keep reading and keep turning pages.


Following are quotes from some of the above named echoes and "inspirations" that have been bouncing around in my brain.


"Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building." and "The door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges." and "From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast."

—"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe


"She felt disoriented and a little stupid. The heat, the wind that seemed to blow constantly with no gusts or drops, like the draft from a furnace, the almost painted quality of the light..." and "The light had changed; from a clear orange it had gone to a thick and murky red that glared off the windows of the shops in Norris Road and seemed to face a church steeple across the way in fresh-clotted blood. The sun itself sat on the horizon now, an oblate sphere." and "She didn't scream. Her lungs seemed to have collapsed like small crumpled paper sacks. Her mind wanted to leave her body behind and just...just fly."

—"Crouch End" by Stephen King, as found in New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, edited by Ramsey Campbell


"The lord of the dark underworld, the king of the multitudinous dead, carried [Persephone] off when, enticed by the wondrous bloom of the narcissus, she strayed too far from her companions." and "And he made her eat a pomegranate seed, knowing in his heart that if she did so she must return to him." and "Demeter grieved when she heard of the pomegranate seed, fearing that she could not keep her daughter with her."

—from Mythology by Edith Hamilton


"The moment his fingers touched them, they became strangely withered and dried up, as with a week's sunshine." and "There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon." and "A basin was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it contain water, reddened by the lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a liquid flame?"

—"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne



In what ways are we predators? In what ways are we prey? When does our role shift from one to the other or vice versa?

What is the nature of time? What is the nature of our soul?*

What is the nature of reality? Do "we" experience the world through our senses? Are our senses oftentimes or mostly misleading? Are our experiences heavily influenced by prior experiences?

Is immortality gift or burden?

*(If we indeed have a soul.)


All in all, Slade House is a spectacular "haunted house" tale and a welcome addition to the literary canon of David Mitchell. I highly recommend it.

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