Slade House

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Slade House by David Mitchell.

Since Slade House was conveniently available at my local public library, I read it hot on the heels of The Bone Clocks, to which it is a supplement with many points of plot and character contact. It is structured similarly, taking place over the course of five decades, with a distinct section dedicated to each. As in The Bone Clocks, narrator duties revolve among principal characters, and the default narrative voice is in present tense. This book does not, however, go into the future, wrapping up its larger story in 2015, the year of its publication.

The chronological structure is determined by the nine-year cycle involved with the renewal of Slade House, a sort of sinister TARDIS stationed in an urban alley and operated by sorcerers who depend on destroying human souls for their sustenance. The overall genre tendency in this book is toward supernatural horror, although at one point Mitchell makes the political allegory of his Horologist stories quite plain, as the villains are indicted as “same old, same old … from feudal lords to slave traders to oligarchs to neocons to predators like you” (235), also tying this book to the social concerns of his wider work.

Slade House is relatively short and reads quickly. I enjoyed it as an epilogue to The Bone Clocks, but I think it would work equally well as an introduction.

Some notes on “psychosoteric” and related neologisms: At first “psychosoteric” struck me as a reprehensible portmanteau of “psychic” and “esoteric.” However, further and more charitable reflection suggests that it might signify the techniques associated with the “soul” (psycho-) “saving” (soteric) efforts of various Atemporals. The term “Atemporal” doesn’t seem all that well-chosen either, though. And I bristled at “the operandi” for well over a hundred pages until Mitchell made it clear that it was a contraction of the phrase modus operandi. Most psychosoteric terms of art are fairly blameless (aperture, lacuna, orison, redaction, suasion, etc.), although they do straddle the stylistic divide between parapsychological and occultist terminology — probably by design. [via]