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House of Bones Mass Market Paperback – 1 Dec 2003

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The dead first spoke to Abel Williams when he was twelve years old, twenty-one years and half a continent away from Dreamland. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Surprisingly well written 24 Jun. 2004
By Beamer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was frightening. There are very, very few books I'd give that adjective to, and many belong to Mr. King himself.
The plot is essentially the same as The House on Haunted Hill. A group of strangers are asked to spend a specific amount of time within a supposedly haunted building, only to learn that they have some connection webbing between them all.
It's not the most original plot in the world, but even Shakespeare was known to recycle from those before him.
Ok, I've already referenced King and Shakespeare here. This book is not in a league with them (nor are they in a league with each other). It's a solid effort, though. There are some groaning points, and moments when you just keep asking why the character is being so stupid, but it's made clear that many of these characters are not of sound mind and not of the best judgment.
What really makes this book, though, are the following:
Setting. Run-down projects with a long history of violence.
Characters. They're diverse with clearly different personalities.
Writing. This book is dense. The paragraphs are long and thick but not cluttered. You're getting a great deal of words for your dollar, as no page is wasted. The result is a clear understanding of the characters and some great, flowing narrative and descriptions.
I suppose the last point could be a sore one for many. My girlfriend started this novel and found it bulky, never finishing it. To me, though, it just made the book richer and livelier. Horror books tend to vary between pages of redundant, gory action narrative and pages of simple, one-sentence dialogue. This book tries to read more like a novel and less like a movie script, and it pays off.
Be aware of some flaws in this book, but it will still shine as you read it. Give it a chance if you want a horror book with moderately more meat than the rest of the market.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
House of Horrors 23 Dec. 2003
By Sebastien Pharand - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dale Bailey is THE author to watch in today's genre fiction. Not only is his prose beautiful and very imaginative, his plotting is also tight and intricate. His books are usually about characters placed in dawry situations, and not about situations affecting characters. This is psychological horror at its very best.
Bailey is no stranger to the ghost story. He began his career with a non-fiction examination of the haunted house in literature, so it is only fitting that his latest effort touches the very same thing he's been examining for so long. In House of Bones, Bailey throws five strangers into an eery setting that might or might not be haunted. Dreamland was once part of an apartment complex. It is now the only remaining tower, standing alone, forgotten and decrepit. Dreamland has a very strange and violent history, one that was never fully put to rest, one that should never be brought to the surface.
When our five strangers enter the building to try and investigate the strange happenings, they will soon realize that the house itself seems to be very much alive. Paranoia, claustrophobia and fear will start coursing in their veins as the house will slowly close up on them. Their arrival awakens the house and brings back its thirst.
Nothing is as it seems to be. One by one, the five of them will be faced with the horrors and monsters of their past. They will soon discover that the past is always waiting to come back to them. All of them have horrible secrets to hide, and all of them have horrible dreams about the things they've done wrong. When the house awakens, so will their past, and their fear will become a very, very real thing. Everything spirals, leading us to the great climax that will make you keep on turning the pages until the early hours of the morning.
In House of Bones, Bailey fully displays his talents. With only two books and one collection under his belt, he has already become one of the brightest voices in genre fiction. The fact that he never sacrifices character development for plot is a thing most new authors take years to learn. The fact that he carefully construct his stories, where each word has a purpose, only makes this book greater. This is quiet horror at its very best.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Bailey Strikes Again! 18 Dec. 2003
By Jack Slay - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
About this time last year I called Dale Bailey's The Fallen one of the best contemporary fantasies I'd read in some time. Hardly a year later, Bailey comes round with a second novel, this one contemporary horror -- and how pleasing it is to say that this one's even better.
House of Bones is a haunted house novel for the twenty-first century. Though Bailey fills his story with familiar trappings--a small band of disparate characters, each of whom harbors a secret, tossed into a building haunted, an inner-city highrise that harbors an unknowable and unspeakable evil (a pinch of The Shining, a dash of The Haunting of Hill House) -- he spins these archetypes in wholly new directions. As this crew settles into the haunted Dreamland, reality unspirals around them: disembodied voices, automatic writing, the blood-chilling laughter of a faraway child. Bailey takes writerly care with each of his characters: by novel's end we know their secrets, their fears, their haunted dreams. In the end, they are like family.
I defy anyone to read the last 75 pages in anything but a single sitting: it comes with a roaring, shattering violence that, though horrifying, rings true. Dale Bailey's House of Bones is a novel that will remain with you long after the doors of Dreamland have closed.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Modern Ghost Story Classic 27 Feb. 2004
By Douglas - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Novels about ghosts and hauntings are hard to pull off mainly for the reason that the ghost tale itself has been around for so long that every possible variation on the theme has been done. Dale Bailey's "The House of Bones" balances traditional techniques with the twist of modern social commentary. As in all classic haunted habitat novels and movies (Richard Matheson's "Hell House," Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House," the film "The House on Haunted Hill," for example), the device of an eccentric bringing together a disparate group of strangers, each with a secret, is used. The setting, however, is not the traditional manor, but an abandoned housing project, a place haunted by overwhelming despair that has lived on beyond the physical tenants.
The writing is quite exceptional, the characters all well-rounded and the allegorical use of poverty and racism works very well. First and foremost, however, the novel is also often very terrifying and that is, after all, the true test of a great ghost story.
I think the publisher made a mistake not putting this out in hardcover. It would be a shame if the ephemeral nature of paperback originals causes this one to be overlooked and forgotten. I truly believe it's one of the best ghost stories of recent times, up there with the aforementioned "Hell House" and "The Haunting of Hill House."
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Heed this man, for great things are in store for him. 10 May 2004
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dale Bailey, House of Bones (Signet, 2003)
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me make this clear from the outset: Dale Bailey is the real deal. This is good, solid haunted house horror that will keep you up late at night turning pages.
The mark of an author who knows what he's doing is the ability to draw you in without you knowing exactly where you got drawn in. King does it well, when he doesn't grab you with the first sentence. Carson McCullers was a master at it. Bailey is the heir apparent. I'm not sure where it happened, but somewhere between pages 25 and 65, I found myself wanting to not eat, not sleep, and not do much of anything else until I had finished this book. (I ended up doing so less than forty-eight hours after that. It would have been less if not for a crisis at work.)
Dreamland is your basic housing project. Except for Building Three, where a whole lot of bad things have happened over the years. Dreamland is slated for demolition, but an eccentric billionaire named Ramsey Lomax has bribed the city to halt the demolition of Building Three and allow him to move into it for two weeks. He contacts a number of seemingly diverse people to spend the time with him, investigating the presence of ghostly activity. Four respond: a journalist who spent the first tree years of his life there, a discredited medium, a veteran with a shady past, and a young doctor on the verge of losing her career. The five lock themselves (with the aid of a convenient blizzard) in Dreamland, and the fun begins.
Put together the words "Chicago" and "projects" and the first thing likely to come to any horror or true crime fan's mind is Cabrini Green. Bailey pulls a nice sleight-of-hand, recognizable only to those of who who've seen it before, to differentiate the two, but there are still obvious comparisons. (Some of the events leading to the ghostly activity have shades of real-life crimes committed at Cabrini Green, as well; readers of the works of Peter Sotos will recognize a few of the things Ramsey Lomax points out as he guides his compatriots on their first tour of Dreamland.) There are a few minor loose threads involved with this angle of things (an aerial photo of Dreamland is referred to as looking like Stonehenge, which Bailey draws attention to, and then it's never mentioned again, for example), but nothing that can't be explained away as a red herring.
Where Bailey's writing suffers, and let me rush to say I use the term "suffers" when benchmarking this stuff against classic haunted house literature that makes everyone and their mother's 100-best lists, is that his characterization is developed a bit on the, well, leisurely side. In other words, by the end of the book, you have three-dimensional characters, but in some cases you have to wait till the end of the book to get there. I understand this is a device for hooking the reader, but (a) it's overused and trite, and (b) Bailey's already got more hooks than the slaughterhouse in the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As passe as it may be, this is one place where Bailey could take a few new tricks from the old dog himself, Stephen King (who was, is, and always will be a master of characterization in a few concise lines).
That aside, I cannot say enough good things about Dale Bailey. Read this. You will not regret it. If you download it free online or get it out of the library, I'll even offer a money-back guarantee. ****
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