If this faux-scary, read-in-one-sitting crowd-pleaser has a single mission, it is to enjoy itself. Think The Bone Clocks’s naughty little sister in a fright wig, brandishing a sparkler, yelling 'Boo!' – and highlighting an element of Mitchell’s talent that has been present but underexploited from the beginning of the writer’s award-studded career: a rich seam of comedy.
Slade House is Mr. Mitchell’s shortest and most accessible novel to date, and you don’t have to have read The Bone Clocks to comprehend it. Readers who come to this book first, however, will get only a slivery glimpse of this writer’s talent. Our seats are the intellectual version of 'obstructed view,' as cheap theater tickets sometimes say.
Slade House is slight, sometimes repetitive, and much less ambitious than Mitchell’s other works. It feels like exactly what Mitchell’s publisher suggests it is: a diverting story drawn out into an unexpected novel, a doodle drawn by a genius. It feels, quite frankly, like very good Bone Clocks fanfiction.
In creating an alternative universe with an afterlife but no God, and a 'script' (and 'counterscript') but no writer, Mitchell has combined the least satisfying aspects of genre and literary fiction...Mitchell is as compulsive as ever, and even if you end up flinging his latest at the wall, you will have a good time first. Just don’t expect it to make any sense.
[A]ll the joy in Slade House is in the discovery. It's in seeing different people make the same mistakes over and over again — in seeing the same story play out, the same weaknesses be preyed upon, the same arrogance of the twins who have been doing this for decades.
That structure sounds repetitive, like five identical tombstones lying in a row...But the sticky web of repetitions and parallels in these stories grows increasingly ominous and, yes, ghoulishly funny.
Five sections, five voices, five narrative styles — each one starting light, often humorous, but getting darker...The novel works, as all of Mitchell’s novels have worked, because we start out reading one thing and end up reading something very different indeed.
It's a welcome change of pace. There's something lovely about a speedy read that you can finish in a single sitting...and that doesn't require a cosmic road map at each hairpin plot turn. The last thing we expected from Mitchell is simplicity, but here it is, burnished to a hellish bronze.
Whether one has encountered The Bone Clocks or not, the chilly pleasures of Slade House are abundant, perfect for experiencing during dropping temperatures and shorter days...As the Mitchellverse grows ever more expansive and connected, this short but powerful novel hints at still more marvels to come.
The very best experimental fiction may have something to offer that replaces such a basic premise. Unfortunately, Mitchell’s latest, Slade House, is not such a book, and its utter derailment after a wonderfully spooky first half is a disappointment.
Mitchell’s talent lies in his ability to infuse the supernatural with deep human feeling. It is the human in his work that makes those of us who enjoy his fantastic fictions swallow the fantasy willingly.
In Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Mitchell established himself as one of the most daringly inventive novelists of our day. But Slade House, like The Bone Clocks puts that brilliance at the service of something trite, simplistic and ultimately rather dull. The sooner Mitchell gets this soul-sucking mumbo-jumbo out of his system and moves on, the better.
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.
Read this little yellow book and you’ll have a fun introduction to not only The Bone Clocks, but Mr. Mitchell’s other work. You’ll also have a wonderful tale to beguile you on the last Saturday in October as you sit inside, near the entrance to your house, waiting for the goblins and wizards of the land who make their way to your staircase, your suddenly scrutable door.
[T]he culmination of each story contains an obligatory nod the meta-world of Bone Clocks, and it is there that Mitchell’s ambition starts to make a messy feast of his talent...At key moments in each character’s adventures there are debilitating pauses for exposition, linking Slade House’s dark little nightmare world to the wider one we heard all too much about in Bone Clocks.