Every nine years down a narrow winding alley hemmed in by brick walls, a small iron door ominously appears. This is the doorway to Slade House, home of the malevolent Grayer twins. The door only opens for a selected few. However, if it does open for you, run and don’t look back.
Firstly, straight off the bat, if you did not like THE BONE CLOCKS then it’s almost a certainty that you will not like this wonderful short, it started out as a twitter story, novel either. The reason being is that Mitchell dives back into his world of metalife and immortality. A world in which there are beings that break the rules of mortality, extending their life indefinitely.
Jonah and Norah Grayer were both born with extraordinary psychic abilities. At first it was just the act of telepathy, both being able to communicate with each other mentally, sending “thought” telegrams to each other without a movement of the mouth. But with time and guidance from others, yes characters from Mitchell’s previous books, they learn to create a “lacuna” where time stands still. With their bodies ensconced within this lacuna they then, like spectral parasites, inhabit a host body and live their lives in these stolen bodies. Because their original birth bodies are in the lacuna, where time is paused, they do not age.
The problem is that every nine years, again Mitchell and his number nine, the twins need to recharge their dwindling “energy”, or psychovoltage, by luring some psychically gifted innocent into the lacuna and feast on their soul. This necessity provides the foundation for the wonderfully dark, haunted tale.
The novel is so short, you could read it in one sitting comfortably, that to say too much more would probably spoil the haunted, atmosphere. If this were a movie it would be the type where you cover your eyes and plead with the character not to open that door. The twins are wonderful characters, especially Norah. Deliciously evil, believing themselves to be gods, apex predators. There is nobody or force that can stop them. Or is there?
I loved this delve back into the world of the immortals, and I am sure Mitchell enjoyed writing it just as much, considering it was published so quickly after The Bone Clocks. Almost like he was missing the world he created as well. For such a short book, the characters, the twins, but remarkably the “victims” as well, are so well developed. Each one contains their own little backstory, and a bond is formed between reader and character with lightning speed.
However, I believe that to truly enjoy this novel the way Mitchell intends, it’s essential to have read The Bone Clocks first. I don’t think it would have anywhere near the same effect as a standalone read. Still a great spooky story, but a sharp knife blunted without the invaluable knowledge found in the previous book.
Here is a video of David Mitchell reading from Slade House from 92Y.