Just in time for everybody’s favorite day to get scared, David Mitchell has churned out a novel that is dark, thrilling, and fun.
Mitchell is best known as the author of Cloud Atlas and last year’s The Bone Clocks.While Cloud Atlas remains a must-read for many enthusiasts (despite a horrible film adaptation) because of its ambitious scope, cleverness, and story, last year’s Bone Clocks read more like a facsimile of a Mitchell epic. It also left some wondering whether Mitchell had lost his way.
Fear not, because while Slade House is short (238 pages) and tightly focused, it is not the heaving disappointment that Bone Clocks was.
The novel gets its name from a mansion in downtown London belonging to soul-sucking immortal twins, Norah and Jonah. It can only be accessed by an alleyway entrance that opens every nine years to let in another victim. The attacks, five in total, make up the chapters. The victims are all people with something called “psychovoltage” and are put through a trippy elaborate ruse in the mansion before getting their souls sucked. It seems that in Mitchell’s mind, a soul is only tenderized and ready to be consumed once the person has truly been screwed with.
Slade House is a sequel of sorts to Bone Clocks, and since all the books are connected, to Cloud Atlas as well. It is not filled with the meditations on the human condition found in Cloud Atlas, but perhaps that is why it’s more enjoyable than Bone Clocks was—it is uncluttered and straightforward.
It is also filled with Mitchell’s wit, particularly when the victims he conjures up have their weaknesses preyed upon. The son of a social-climbing mother, a pompous cop, college students interested in the supernatural, and a journalist all see themselves built up and broken down word by word.
Slade House is also a reminder that for all his complexity, the dexterity of his writing, and his wit, the world of David Mitchell is very much good and evil. The novel sees the return of the Horologists, the magically gifted group of people who have decided to protect the world from those like Norah and Jonah.
One needn’t have read any of Mitchell’s past books to enjoy Slade House. Those who do crack it open will find inside a thoroughly entertaining ride full of mind games, unexpected twists, and even a few laughs.
But it should be said that for those who are expecting something that is both as aspirational and entertaining as Cloud Atlas, Slade House will likely only leave you wanting.