While not as good as 'The Harrowing', 'The Unseen' is a well-written psychological thriller with supernatural elements. The premise is intriguing - thWhile not as good as 'The Harrowing', 'The Unseen' is a well-written psychological thriller with supernatural elements. The premise is intriguing - the legacy of a parapsychology experiment gone wrong - and the few characters are well made, though since we see the entire story through the eyes of the main character, Laurel McDonald, some such as Katrina are viewed only with animosity and little suggestion that she is a character in her own right. The beginning is very slow, but still engaging, building Laurel up to be a neurotic and obsessive character, her tendencies to assess people in line with her psychology studies being turned gradually inward. She is frightened of who and what she might be, and the arc of the novel provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to this, enjoyably different from the 'neurotic woman goes into a haunted house and goes mad' template of 'The Haunting of Hill House', 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'Hell House'. On the other hand, the first half of the novel is repetitive and goes on rather too long, which lessens the tension a bit and ends up rushing through the haunting itself (surely what a lot of readers are waiting for!). However, Sokoloff has displayed a tendency with both 'The Unseen' and 'The Harrowing' to give unexpected answers to classic genre questions (what force are they dealing with?) and I didn't guess this one. However, there was one twist that severely disappointed me. Obviously I won't spoiler it now, and on reflection it was rather good, but it also broke the tone a little and lessened the fear of the force inhabiting the house.
Definitely worth a look. I ummed and aahd about giving it three or four stars, but while it's a good novel, I picked it up as a part of the haunted house subgenre, and it just lacks the sophistication and firm grip on pace displayed by the best examples of the genre....more
Matheson already caught my attention with his most well-known work, 'I Am Legend', but this take on the haunted house genre is as good, if not a littlMatheson already caught my attention with his most well-known work, 'I Am Legend', but this take on the haunted house genre is as good, if not a little bit better, than his sci-fi horror novel. Well, OK, they're doing very different things: 'I Am Legend' manages to make a compelling narrative out of a man trapped alone in his house, slaying vampires by day until it becomes a chore. 'Hell House', on the other hand, takes the well-worn (and wonderful) trope of the haunted house and makes it utterly compelling. I literally had to force myself to put this book down every time I stopped reading.
Matheson reflects on the classics of the haunted house genre, such as Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House' and Henry James' 'The Turn of the Screw'. His ghosts are more transparent (if you'll parden the pun), their motivations explored and revealed. The usual group of personalities is present in the living investigators: the doctor of parapsychology determined to prove his theory, the vulnerable believer, the cynic, but they are engaging and well-written, assisted by Matheson's willingness to leap between perspectives with little notice, just as the evil of the house can see their darkest thoughts. Allegiance switches as Dr Barrett becomes more frustrated and obsessed with his revolutionary machine to clear ghostly activity, his wife starts to understand that the house is bringing out darker sides of herself, the flaky medium is the only one willing to try and solve the mystery of the house and the cynical closed-off medium is caught between being the hero and walking away.
Matheson doesn't pull any punches with his ghostly phenomena: some parts of the novel are so horrible and overwrought in their horror that you have to laugh at them. But to Matheson's credit, that doesn't make them any less tragic, as the circumstances connected with the events are deeply upsetting. A wonderful, if obvious, haunted house novel and one I would fully recommend if you like the genre....more
'John Dies at the End' is well-written, dark and funny, with an enjoyably misanthropic hero and a genuine feel of weight to the proceedings. The autho'John Dies at the End' is well-written, dark and funny, with an enjoyably misanthropic hero and a genuine feel of weight to the proceedings. The author's status as a comedy writer made me a little wary, but while there are some slight diversions into unfunny joke-horror, on the whole, the humour serves to emphasise the hopelessnes of the situation. David Wong, the main character, who shares his name with the author, is surprisingly rounded, though I truly hope that he was only minimally drawn from life. Still, he is one of the most unflinching narrators I've read about, and his decision to just opt out of the threat against the world is an interesting spin on the cliches of the genre. Amy is an unusual and fleshed out character. However, 'John Dies at the End' was originally written as a series of novellas and the narrative is one short story and two novellas strung together with a framing narrative. This gives it a very disconnected feel. There is a feeling with the novellas that they go on a bit long and are dragged out a little too far. However, over all, 'John Dies ath the End' is an enjoyable novel that shows a dark supernatural world where there are no easy endingsand the good guys don't always win....more