What happens when you enter Slade House?
That question is central to David Mitchell’s newest book, asked through the very design of the book itself. Unlike most novels, Slade House is compact and almost square with a large window cut out of the front cover. Through the window, cubic lines spiral geometrically into a nothingness occupied only by the words “A Novel,” which lie limply staring up at the reader with seeming remorse. This is a book of scientific proportions, not your average horror/thriller. As the keys on either side of the window suggest, we the readers are invited to enter into a world less fictional than Mitchell would like us to assume.
We next open the yellow cover which is at once both welcoming and reminiscent of a traffic light’s warning to slow down. Bordering the “pit of despair” is a collection of rooms seemingly borrowed from a Clue board: “solarium”, “tea room”, “library”, “meditation room”, and the . . . “trophy room” ?? Suddenly we realize that the spiraling pit is, in fact, a staircase with doors leading off to different floors of a beautiful, old house. But no explanation is given for the scarlet runes inscribed over certain rooms in Slade House, written in the same hue as the words “A Novel.” We are left again with the opening question: what happens when you enter Slade House?
Of course I can’t tell you the answer to that question, but what I can tell you, is that despite the danger, it is well worth peeking through the little black iron gate that leads to Slade House. As with his prior acclaimed novels, The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas, Mitchell quickly submerges his readers in a world so similar to our own, but governed by slightly different, strange yet believable rules that fascinate the mind and challenge one’s assumptions. (For those of you who have read The Bone Clocks, consider Slade House a short excursion into that same universe.)
Like Slade House itself, this book will likely take a hold on you. But don’t be afraid; you’ll probably make it out on the other end.