Book review: Slade House

Slade HouseSlade House by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Note: Slade House features references to characters and settings from Mitchell’s other stories, but is completely standalone even if you’ve never read anything else of Mitchell’s.)

Answering the question, “Should you ever try entering a strange black iron gate embedded in the imposingly tall brick wall of a long, twisting alley to see what’s on the other side?” (the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t), Slade House begins in the 70s and moves to the present in nine year jumps, recounting the visits of various people invited/lured to the titular house, one that turns out to be both real and unreal.

Starting with a young boy addled on his mother’s Valium and ending with someone a wee bit more together, Mitchell lays out what is essentially a collection of short stories recounting the people drawn to the house and their typically horrifying experiences there, each story further revealing the mystery of what Slade House is. The stories are told from the first person POV and Mitchell grandly cheats on this, so much so that you’re likely to just accept it or, if you’re feeling cranky, perhaps put the book down.

Trading more on the bizarre and funny and less on outright horror, I found the main strength of the book comes in the variety of the assorted protagonists, ranging from hapless kids to hapless would-be paranormal investigators. Mitchell’s glee at tormenting them is almost palpable.

To say much more would spoil the story. While the revelations are likely to be worked out by those steeped in the genre, I still enjoyed the ride. Or visit, if you will.

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