Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Book: Haunted, by James Herbert

Welllllll... this one was pretty scary. I was suprised. After reading two of his other books, The Magic Cottage and Once, I kind of didn't expect to be scared since the 'scary' scenes in the other books didn't register much of a chill.

This book moved along at a pretty slow pace, started picking up about 3/4 of the way through, and then raced to the end.

It's about a paranormal investigator (and we all know how much I love those ghost hunters!) who goes on a case to try and disprove a haunting. "This case is special" the letter from the homeowner says. And it is. Not that you'd know it until nearly the end of the book.

But then, in a sudden rally of spookiness, the book takes an abrupt turn and all the clues you've been sort of picking up on fall into place, with horrifying effect. I was genuinely creeped out, even though the ploys were fairly obvious. I'm not even that hard-boiled, I creep out pretty easily, but I just wasn't expecting it since his other books were pretty tame.

I had to turn on all the lights on the way to the bathroom, and had a problem being left in the dark hall for the instant between turning off the light and stepping back into the bedroom. So, it was pretty good and scary.

Overall, the book's not that great. Nothing spectacular. It's almost as if he lucked out into getting a good creepy effect at the end of the book. And upon reflection the next day, it's a painfully obvious plot, with a lot of random clues and tangents that don't go anywhere, and that always bothers me. However, that said, it was a quick, relatively fun read, and a good twist at the end which, while not exactly surprising, is satisfying. Sort of. I don't know. Maybe I'm too picky. But I liked it well enough.

All the reviews I keep reading (on book jackets or while checking out other reviews of the books) have said that he's a British Stephen King. I disagree. Maybe they're drawing the comparison because, like Stephen King, the story surrounding the horror is fairly benign, almost idyllic. But for some reason Mr. King really knows how to turn everyday situations into something terribly frightening, and Mr. Herbert is good at creating settings for something really spooky to happen, but it doesn't really. At least, not usually. In my experience, anyway.

Could I be any less clear?

Anyway. I was thinking I was off horror books for awhile, since after Haunted I pulled out About A Boy (to get my mind off the spookiness), but now I think I might have to re-read a couple classic King novels to compare if they're really as good as I remember. I'm thinking 'Salem's Lot, maybe one or two others. I did genuinely love It, The Stand, and Pet Sematary, although I can never read Pet Sematary ever again because it was that scary. I can't stand dead things coming back to life (part of the reason why Haunted was so spooky, that's all the hint I'll give you). I've never been able to read Cujo because I can't stand what happens to the doggie. Carrie and Christine were early favorites, started reading those in middle school.

Enough with the random! I have About A Boy and How To Be Good yet to go from the library stack so I've got to get through at least those before diving back into the search for the perfect scary book. Oh, is that what I was doing? Apparently so.


Kate said...

Have you ever tried any Shirley Jackson? Very creepy but in a quiet way. "The Lottery" and "We Have Always Lived In The Castle" are probably her most well-known, but my hands-down favorite is "The Haunting of Hill House." Ignore all the crap movie adaptations (although the 1999ish one with Liam Neeson and Owen Wilson is good for the kitsch value - though the plot line has nothing to do with the book!), this book is just chilling, the definition of subtle psychological tension.

Daphne said...

I did read "The Haunting of Hill House" and it was pretty spooky. I especially remember the part where she was locked in the room with the Thing in the hallway... good stuff. I haven't read "We Have Always Lived In The Castle" -- of course "The Lottery" is a classic.