Before you start reading Slade House you might want to read The Bone Clocks by the same author. While Slade House isn’t part two of a series – or part of a series at all – The Bone Clocks will give you some background you may find pertinent to how this book ends. You see, David Mitchell has a thing for linking his books, even if the link is fleeting. A neighbour’s brother in-law in one book could be the man the protagonist sits next to in the bus in another, for example (this doesn’t actually happen – or hasn’t happened yet, but you get my drift). The link between The Bone Clocks and Slade House is a little more than fleeting, and truth be told had I not read The Bone Clocks I would have thought the ending of Slade House abrupt and a bit of a cop out.
Slade House sits behind a small, black iron door, embedded into a very tall wall. Its gardens are lush, but the door only appears every nine years, and those who enter hardly ever leave. According to the various review snippets included in the book, it’s a creepy, scary, horror story. And while I did find some parts creepy, I wasn’t scared out of my wits. I mean, I’ve read Mark Z Danielewski’s The House of Leaves, and that was the freakiest scariest book I have ever read and I don’t know if anything will be able to top that.
Not that I didn’t enjoy the book. I’ve done my Stephen King dues and I’m quite over the horror genre, but I love David Mitchell’s work and will read any book he writes. However, I find he does his best work when he weaves many voices and spaces and times together into a collective book, like Ghostwritten, Number9Dream, Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks. But when he focuses on just one character or topic or story, something feels missing, or, too easy. And while I liked Slade House, I think I would have loved it if it had more character and background development instead of having explanations passed off in almost ‘oh by the way’ moments… if Mitchell had played more with the mystery of the Slade House inhabitants… and, well, if the ending didn’t contradict the conditions that were spelled out in the fourth ‘chapter’.
But because the ending was left so, perhaps Mitchell will return to the story someday and make it all clear again. Whether it’s in passing or another book all on its own, I guess time will tell.