A headlong adrenaline-rush of a new novel from one of our most beloved and original writers: Slade House, which has its origins in Mitchell's famously Twitter-released short story last year, is his most entertaining and accessible novel yet. A cycle of linked ghost stories perfect for any dark and stormy night.
An ordinary road in a town like yours: bus routes and red-brick houses. A dank narrow alley, easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. A small black metal door set into the wall: no handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it opens onto a sunlit garden, sloping up to a house that doesn't quite make sense... Go through, and the door closes discreetly behind you. In David Mitchell's exhilarating new novel, five "guests" separated by nine years enter Slade House for a brief visit--only to vanish without trace from the outside world. Who draws them to the heart of Slade House, and why is the house missing from maps? Beginning in 1979 and ending in 2015, these five interlacing narratives will enchant Mitchell's readers, old and new, with a signature blend of mystery, realism and the supernatural.
Mitchell's latest novel is his shortest and lightest to date, and it functions as a sort of entry-level offering from the author of hugely ambitious novels such as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks. Unfortunately, it gives Mitchell's fans far too little of a good thing. Tucked into an alley behind a British dive bar is the sprawling and mysterious Slade House, inhabited by the soul-eating, shape-shifting Grayer Twins. In episodes that begin in 1979 and end in the present, they lure a succession of human hosts into their Wonderland-like abode. First there's a geeky teen and his mother, then a hard-boiled detective and a crew of New Wave ghost hunters, followed by a backstory-heavy section framed as an interview with an expert on the case. All will eventually enter the mind-bending architecture of Slade House and engage in psychic warfare with its denizens. There is a solid haunted-house book in here somewhere, but it's wedged intermittently into a surfeit of quirk, repetition, and esoteric dialogue that's very hard to take seriously without a more solid foundation. It all builds up to the requisite wizard duel between the Twins and the formidable Iris Marinus-Levy, who will be familiar to readers of The Bone Clocks. The high degree of self-reference and the skipping through genre and time is trademark Mitchell, but the constant rehashing of what is already a pretty thin plot means that this offering fails to really stand up on its own, or to add anything new to the Mitchell-verse.