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2016 Book Discussions > Slade House - General Discussion, No Spoilers (March 2016)

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message 1: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Hi All,
Welcome to the Slade House discussion. This thread will be for general discussion about the book. Below I have posted a four reviews (2 favorable; 2 not so favorable!) and one interview. CAUTION - the reviews give away a lot about this book, more than I am used to in a review.

A couple of general questions to start things off. Feel free to ignore, ask others, or both.

1. How would you characterize this novel? Is it literary, horror, fantasy, science fiction or all (or some or none) of the proceeding?
2. What do you think about Mitchell's concept of the ubernovel?

Reviews:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/boo...

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/boo...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/th...

Interviews:

http://www.npr.org/2015/11/17/4561985...


message 2: by Peter (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:20PM) (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I would classify this novel as horror. And I loathe horror.


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments As for his ubernovel, how is that different than authors who just set all of their novels in the same setting?


message 4: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Peter wrote: "As for his ubernovel, how is that different than authors who just set all of their novels in the same setting?"

Good question. Personally, I think each of his novels can be read with no knowledge of the others. This is the first one where I think I would have seen a connection, if I hadn't already read there was one. Do you think this is a way that Mitchell or his publishers are using to hype his books?


message 5: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Peter wrote: "I would classify this novel as horror. And I loathe horror."

I put horror as my first classification but I wasn't particularly horrified until 1997! While I enjoyed it, I wouldn't call it literary, but more like pulp. (Of course, one generation's pulp may well be another's literature!)


message 6: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I think the book is structurally a horror novel, but going into why would involve spoilers.


message 7: by Veronique (new)

Veronique There are elements of horror but I would say this is fantasy, leaning towards the gothic in the tradition of ghost and haunted house stories.

This is my first David Mitchell's book so I wouldn't be able to comment on the ubernovel, but if it is a matter of having the same setting/universe and recurring characters, other authors have done this before (Anthony Trollope and Stephen King to name just two). It does however pick my interest. I did enjoy Slade House, witnessing how each episode builds on the previous one, and especially all the literary allusions/references and use of colour (grey particularly).


message 8: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
Linda,

Thanks - I may catch up with the discussion once the UK paperback version has been published, but it does not sound like a book that I want to pay a premium price for.

I can comment a little on the ubernovel, since I have read all of the previous ones. Mitchell started talking about it when he was publicising the Bone Clocks. For me they can all be read as self-contained novels, but you do find minor characters in one being developed in others. So it is really just a continuation of the linkages between the sub-stories in Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas and the Bone Clocks, some of which can easily be missed. I read Ghostwritten first and for me that will always be a favourite, Cloud Atlas would be next but as a teenager in 80s England I have a soft spot for Black Swan Green.


message 9: by Anita (new)

Anita | 104 comments I'm with Veronique and see this more as a fantasy than a horror story. I don't like horror stories and definitely enjoyed this book.

Had not heard the term ubernovel before. But I don't think Mitchell is alone in characters being in more than one book written by an author. I do think it is a marketing tool.


message 10: by Portia (new)

Portia I'm halfway through and a little put off by posts calling this book horror. I'll pretend it's fantasy and keep reading. I'm not a fan of horror.


message 11: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments I loved this book. To me, it was more of an exploration of what is considered reality. I would place it in the genre of science fiction, a gothic science fiction. I read The Bone Clocks. This book went into a more detailed aspect of one particular component introduced in The Bone Clocks. I believe it is considered an über novel because Mitchell seems to be exploring some of the newer views of physics in each of his novels. He seems to be creating a new universe with new laws of physics. He is my new writer hero!


message 12: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
Kathy,

I read and heard some of the interviews where Mitchell was talking about the über-novel - über is German for over, and what he means is that all of his books can be seen as pieces in a larger whole, he also said that developing a minor character from an earlier book is easier than inventing a new one, and used the example of Hugo in the Bone Clocks, who appears as a posh cousin of the hero in Black Swan Green. He does seem to be more interested in fantasy than he used to be - to me he is best when most grounded in reality, but then I'm not normally a reader of fantasy books.


message 13: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Kathy wrote: " I believe it is considered an über novel because Mitchell seems to be exploring some of the newer views of physics in each of his novels."

No, just no. I try to keep up with modern physics from a layman's perspective, and nothing Mitchell is doing is like anything I've read. It reads more like hashed-over mysticism than physics to me.


message 14: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments Does he mention when or how the idea of developing a larger overarching story line came to him? Does this extension include his earlier books? I have only read The Bone Clocks and Slade House where this theme is pretty obvious. I have copies of Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green which I hope to read soon. I wonder if it was his plan all along or whether it organically grew as he was developing as an author. Either way, it is a very clever technique. The books are great as stand alones, but for the readers who want to delve a bit deeper and read all of them, the übernovel idea gives Easter eggs in recurring characters plus a deeper understanding into some of his themes. I will have to watch his interviews.


message 15: by Hugh (last edited Mar 02, 2016 10:48AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
He definitely used it quite early but I think he's only started talking about the über-novel quite recently - I think at least one character in Ghostwritten (possibly Mo Muntervany) appeared in Cloud Atlas, and there was definitely a character (Eva Crommelynck?) from Cloud Atlas in Black Swan Green. Marinus in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet reappears in the Bone Clocks. There are probably more - I think Neal Brose, the Nick Leeson type rogue trader in Ghostwritten was in one of the later books too but I can't remember where.

I'm with Peter on the science - I would classify it as fantasy rather than science fiction since to me science fiction implies some sort of grounding in real science.


message 16: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments I agree with Hugh and Peter that what Mitchell is writing is not science fiction grounded in science.


message 17: by Nutmegger (new)

Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments I feel that Mitchell's novels stand alone very well. I would characterize Slade House as Gothic. While reading I felt Hawthorne lurking in the background.


message 18: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Linda wrote: "I feel that Mitchell's novels stand alone very well. I would characterize Slade House as Gothic. While reading I felt Hawthorne lurking in the background."

Interesting. I had to look up gothic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_...) and found examples of modern gothic horror, including Anne Rice and Stephen King as examples! I can see how the Slade House (i.e., the house!) could elicit a gothic genre characterization. The fact that the book is eliciting so many different characterizations as to style suggests Mitchell has been successful in crossing genre boundaries.


message 19: by Stacy (new)

Stacy (stacybee14) | 7 comments I loved this book! It made me very interested in checking out some more of his work. I checked out Bone Clocks and Black Swan Green from the library today. For those who have read them: any input as to which I should read first, or does it not really matter?


message 20: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
Stacy wrote: "I loved this book! It made me very interested in checking out some more of his work. I checked out Bone Clocks and Black Swan Green from the library today. For those who have read them: any input a..."
I don't think the order matters - they are all self-contained and although there is some sharing of characters, none of them depends on any knowledge of the others. Black Swan Green is very different, as it is a straight narrative of teenage life in 80s England (the first section of the Bone Clocks is a bit similar).


message 21: by James (new)

James | 75 comments I wonder why this isn't treated as a genre novel - maybe more suitable for a Wildcard Pick?? I'm not complaining at all - just wondering.


message 22: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Jim wrote: "I wonder why this isn't treated as a genre novel - maybe more suitable for a Wildcard Pick?? I'm not complaining at all - just wondering."

The moderators will correct me, but Mitchell is considered to be a literary author who mixes genre. Some of his books are more traditionally literary than others but I am not aware of anyone who characterizes him as a genre author.


message 23: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Jim wrote: "I wonder why this isn't treated as a genre novel - maybe more suitable for a Wildcard Pick?? I'm not complaining at all - just wondering."

The moderators will correct me, but Mitchell ..."

I think he's gradually drifted further into genre territory, though there were some fantasy elements in his earlier books too.


message 24: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments In general, modern (or post-modern if you prefer) literary fiction feels free to mine genre fiction for useful idioms. And genre fiction feels the same about literary fiction. It can make the distinction kind of arbitrary at times. Members of the group have tried to come up with bright line tests to distinguish between the two, but the results have been ... unconvincing at best, and risible at worst. So we sort of shoot from the hip these days and don't worry about exact classification too much.


message 25: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2873 comments Mod
Wikipedia has a list of the allusions and references to his other novels: (view spoiler)

A similar list is available in Wikipedia for allusions and references in The Bone Clocks. Here's the LA Times review of The Bone Clocks that I believe first mentions the uber-novel concept.

Interesting that Slade House started as a Twitter story...


message 26: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Thanks Marc for those links. Glad someone is doing the hard work of finding the connections and that it's not me!


message 27: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2873 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Thanks Marc for those links. Glad someone is doing the hard work of finding the connections and that it's not me!"

I feel the same way! I'm not letting myself read/buy Slade House until I read the two remaining unread Mitchell books I already own (Ghostwritten and Black Swan Green).


message 28: by Portia (new)

Portia I did read the whole book, but now I am inspired to return to The Bone Clocks. Started it but didn't finish. Time for a restart.


message 29: by Whitney (last edited Mar 08, 2016 09:04PM) (new)

Whitney | 2245 comments Mod
Gave up on waiting for the library copy and started listening to the audiobook. Glad I did, it's an excellent reading. I'll now contribute a couple "me toos" to the discussion.

I love books like Mitchell's (or King's, or Faulkner's) that take place in the same universe and have major characters from one book appearing as minor characters in others. I don't think it's at all necessary to know the other books to appreciate any one of them, but it does make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Also, what Peter said about genre. More and more the distinction is becoming arbitrary, and we do end up frequently shooting from the hip. For example, A look at Slade House on Amazon has it listed as "literary", "genre fiction", "horror", "fantasy", "mystery, thriller & suspense", "ghosts", etc. All of which are correct as far as that goes.


message 30: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2833 comments Mod
Whitney, Peter, well said! Of course "literary" is the tag that is hardest to define and the one with most cachet and fewest readers. For me part 5 of the Bone Clocks was almost unreadable, but I liked most of the rest - I don't have a problem with genre elements in literary fiction but (and a big but since I have not yet read this one) I feel Mitchell's writing is stronger when it is most firmly grounded in reality.


message 31: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments I think Mitchell will continue to generate controversy with respect to classification, especially to those who like to classify! I think, as Whitney says, that the interconnection of Mitchell's books makes the "whole greater than its parts" and perhaps that's part of what's behind the "ubernovel" concept. I have read five so far - two in print and three in audio - with my favorite to date being Ghostwritten. I did not see the interconnected characters until this book, where they are pretty hard to miss if you've read Bone Clocks! This one seems, at first blush, the least literary, but I find that opinion changing through our discussions here as things are pointed out (i.e., use of color) that I missed. I think the blending of genres into literary is a positive, if for no other reason that the interesting debate it arouses!


message 32: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments I think the genre question is analogous to the situation in all art; music is a good example: musicians take from jazz, classical, blues, etc. and blend them into something new and interesting.
While I was fascinated with Slade House and loved the humor mixed with wonderful plot twists, it's not one I'll ever look at again, I don't think.


message 33: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2439 comments Jan, I think you are probably right that the genre question is related to what happens in other types of art - the evolution of art. As far as music, I can appreciate that evolution with one name -- Elvis Pressley!

If Slade House is your first Mitchell book, I can see why you'd say you are unlikely to look at it again. However, if you are intrigued by the uberbook claim, you may, as I now do, look for the interconnecting pieces when you read another Mitchell book!


message 34: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 102 comments Linda, thanks. I'll keep that in mind.


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