Slade House, a 2015 novel by the genre-blending David Mitchell, is a terrific delight. Wrapped with mystery, gothic themes, notions of life and death and thrills, Slade House is a fantastic read. Here’s my Goodreads review:
Slade House is a fantastic book, full of creepy ideas. Although the ending didn’t win me over, and David Mitchell doesn’t give each character a distinct enough voice, I appreciated Slade House for what it was, and more. It’s gothic, dreary and dark, with a nightmarish concept and setting. The atmosphere pierced with horror, and like the best works from that genre, conjures unforgettable imagery. It’s a lean, boney book: do not expect a tome like Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks.
You’ll appreciate Slade House more if you are aware of David Mitchell’s style. Yes, Spyglass makes an appearance here (a literary universe ala MCU is pretty cool!) as do references to David Mitchell’s other works. What David Mitchell does very well is immersing the reader into a ‘postmodern’ world. All his pop culture references are welcome, and although it may jar, it is forgivable because Mitchell writes about eras he gives a damn about. Although I wish David Mitchell went beyond the creepy images, and investigated his metaphysical ideas, I am pleased with Slade House.
As pointed out in my review, Slade House has flaws. It’s a skinny book with brevity, and fascinating concepts are glossed over, or investigated with some, but minor depth. Yet if you’ve read The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell’s epic about immortality, you’ll appreciate Slade House more: Mitchell builds on his ideas and concepts present in other novels. One can’t avoid the feeling David Mitchell still has much more to say.
At times, Slade House, like many horror books, reads predictably. Yet David Mitchell is smart enough to put these moments in the beginning. This allows more profound surprises and the last half of the novel is delightful. A problem with much of horror is prioritising creepiness, gore and death over characterisation and story. It would be easy for Mitchell to write Slade House in a predictable way, but thankfully, he doesn’t.
In my post about writing gothic fiction, I mentioned the importance of ‘putting light in the darkness.’ This applies to Slade House and David Mitchell’s superb storytelling: his novel isn’t just bad things, but has glimmers of victory and hope. Because of this, the dark, creepy moments in Slade House stick out even more.
On its own, Slade House lacks thematic depth. But if you’ve read other Mitchell books, you’ll understand the author’s style better. Plus, you’ll see how Mitchell’s ideas connect with each other. There’s no author like David Mitchell right now.
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