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The Overnight [Hardcover]

Ramsey Campbell , Mark Morris
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 May 2004
A bookstore can be a wonderful, welcoming place of both commerce and curiosity. That's the goal for Woody, an American recently transferred to England to run a branch of Texts. He wants a clean, orderly store and lots of sales to show his bosses when they arrive from the States for a pre-Christmas inspection. Not easy given the shop's location in a foggy strip mall. And things keep going wrong. No matter how often the shelves are put in order before the doors are locked at night, when the staff returns in the morning, books are lying all over the floor, many damp and damaged beyond repair. The store's computers keep acting up-errors appear in brochures and ads and orders disappear completely. And even when the machines are turned off, they seem to glow with a spectral gray light. The hit-and-run death of an employee in the store's parking lot marks a turning point. One employee accuses another of making sexual advances and they come to blows. Between one sentence and the next, one loses his ability to read. The security monitors display half-seen things crawling between the stacks that vanish before anyone can find them. Desperate, Woody musters his staff for an overnight inventory. When the last customers reluctantly depart, leaving almost-visible trails of slime shining behind them, the doors are locked, sealing Woody and the others inside for a final orgy of shelving. The damp, grey, silent things that have been lurking in the basement and hiding in the fog may move slowly, but they are inexorable. This bookstore is no haven. It is the doorway to a hell unlike any other.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PS Publishing; Trade Hardback Edition edition (1 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190288096X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902880969
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 15.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,467,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The macabre and the mundane 1 July 2004
By Jane Aland VINE VOICE
After Campbell's career high with The Darkest Part of the Woods I had high hopes for this novel, but unfortunately it's only semi-successful. The story concerns a group of workers at a new bookstore (which is, as you'd expect from Campbell, haunted), and their fate when they have to work overnight at the shop. As ever Campbell gives some good descriptive writing, and the final third when the lights go out and the horror kicks in is as eerie as anything he's ever written. The downside is that a lot of the novel is deeply tedious. Campbell has drawn on his real life experience of working in a bookstore, with the vast majority of the novel seeming to consist of characters endlessly stacking and restacking books on shelves - it may be accurate, but it's also very boring. The novel is an ensemble piece which has benefits and drawbacks - on the plus side you never know who (if anybody) is going to survive the night; on the downside having a large cast with no clearly defined 'lead' sometimes makes for a bitty experience (and the fact that I had to refer to my handwritten notes to remind me who each character was a couple of hundred pages in is clearly not a good sign).
Worth sticking through the early mundane chapters for the supernatural finale, The Overnight is a good book - but not one of Campbell's best.
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Just ... wow. 10 May 2005
By Cherie Priest - Published on Amazon.com
How do I love this book? Let me break it down:

The first striking and delightful thing about this book is the prose voice -- well, all of them, really. The Overnight opens and closes with manager's POV, but the bulk of the novel is comprised of individual chapters presented through the eyes of specific employees. All the expected personality archetypes are present -- and I say that as someone who lost a couple of years working in a bookstore. You've got your ambitious suck-up, the fussy mother-hen children's section director, a single mom who took the job in part for flexibility's sake, an antagonistically gay man, a grouchy feminist who objects to her perceived corporate serfdom, a sleepy half-competent stoner ... etcetera, etcetera.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear Campbell had been following me around during the years I worked at McKay's. We even had a temperamental elevator, too. Holy moly. The man is a spook.

The second surprising and impressive aspect of the story is how utterly painful it is. The conflicts are so real, and so well-drawn, that I cringed away from them. They itched. I found the plight of dyslexic but dedicated Wilf to be particularly angst-inducing; I've always had a hard time with numbers the way he has a hard time with letters, and it's both humiliating and infuriating. Also beat-your-head-against-a-wall accurate: Connie's persistently regenerating typos. Oy. The head hurty.

The third noteworthy and laudable characteristic of The Overnight is the creep factor. It sneaks in slowly, but certainly. It's always present in that frustrating way that could, in a pinch, by logical people, be explained away by weather or human incompetence. This is the thing -- the story does not rely on stupidity. The Texts employees are rational people (more or less), and they respond to the swelling threat with appropriate actions. The real narrative coup is that Campbell creates a credible threat that overwhelms the staff members despite their competent handling of the situation. It's a tough line to walk -- and it's one that is rarely skirted well.

I've read a bit of complaint here and there that the first half of the book is boring, and I understand the criticism but I disagree with it. The first half is spent establishing (a). character development and (b). the undercurrent of threat ... and while it isn't as action-packed as the second end, I felt that the writing style itself carried me through the slower sections.

Campbell could be composing ad copy for sports socks in his sleep and I'd still hang in there for the ride. He writes with exactly the kind of dexterity that I aspire -- someday, in my finer moments -- to get near enough to tap with a ten-foot pole. The long and short of it is this: I loved this book. It's a polished little gem of fright and filth. It entertained me with its prose, it surprised me with its depth, and it unnerved me with its story.

Excellent stuff.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary as Hell 3 Aug 2006
By S. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
OK. All Right. There seems to be a gigantic split of opinion on this one. My opinion:

1. What you find fightening is as individual as what makes you laugh. Personally, this literally gave me nightmares. That hasn't happened since I was a kid. But I don't know what scares you: werewolves? vampires? final exams? IRS audits?

2. It must be admitted - Campbell takes an ungodly amount of time getting the book going. I enjoyed the shifting third person limited points of view. I also found some of it mildly funny, and the soap opera elements also interested me. But it is not remotely scary until over half way through. Be prepared for that, don't read it, or skip to the middle. You'll not understand the characters as well if you skip, but it may be the best way for some of you to read this.

3. The ending offers no explanations (although one is sort of alluded to earlier in the book). The fates of all the characters are not detailed, nor do we have a Monday morning wrap-up of what the world makes of what happened in the store overnight. I didn't feel that it needed that sort of ending, but you may.

4. The character of Woody is such an over-the-top American stereotype that it is somewhat distracting. He becomes in effect a secondary villain. I don't remember such scorn for Americans in previous Campbell novels. Post-Iraq War anger, maybe?

If you can deal with these caveats, buy this book and enjoy. Personally I loved it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I forced myself to finish it 18 April 2008
By A. Ludens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I respect Ramsey Campbell. He is a master at his craft. I did not enjoy this book however. Structurally, dividing up the book between all the book store employees was interesting. Unfortunately, Campbell's characters are all a bunch of standoffish, snarky whiners who take jabs at one another at every opportunity. The conversations and dialogue is so ridiculously over-the-top "British" that it almost borders on parody. Here's my biggest complaint about the entire book, and how no one caught this is just beyond me: the store manager is American, newly transplanted from the States. He does not speak anything close to resembling American English. There is absolutely NOTHING that comes out of this character's mouth to indicate he is anything other than a lifelong Brit. Two recurring patrons of the store are obvious red herrings who meet a meaningless and 'footnote-esque' fate. After so many classic short stories by Mr. Campbell, which never fail to impress, this novel left me very disappointed. I feel guilty saying it because he is such a nice man, but pick something else by him instead.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gleefully Horrific Return to Form 12 Sep 2005
By Jason Bradley Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
I love Ramsey Campbell's writing; like another reviewer posted, his writing style is so rich -- so laden with double meanings and horror (and sometimes humor) on almost every line -- that I would gladly read "The Ramsey Campbell Cookbook." (And indeed he DOES have a nonfiction book out: "Ramsey Campbell, Probably.")

Several of Campbell's stories explore the horrific potential of certain landscapes (sand in his short story "The Voice of the Beach", ice in MIDNIGHT SUN, urban blight in countless short stories). While THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS is set in an almost fairy-tale forest, THE OVERNIGHT is set in a more recognizable, more common, possibly more threatening setting: a brand-new outdoor strip mall surrounded by fields of boggy grass. I was worried at first that the bookstore setting would become self-indulgent (like any of Stephen King's novels with authors for protagonists), but the fact that the main characters work in a bookstore is almost irrelevant; the point, refreshingly to this reader if not to them, is that they're wage slaves and they may as well be stacking bricks. The first half of the novel is a dark satire of this kind of crushing work environment (similar to some of Thomas Ligotti's short stories in that vein). Campbell's novels often focus on a family, but he's obviously put his recent day-job-at-Borders experience to good use in depicting a different kind of group of people: coworkers. (Admittedly, the cast is so large I often had to flip back and forth to remind myself who was who.)

All this gradually and tensely builds to the second half where the novel turns explicitly supernatural in a, let's say, ruthless and expedient manner. Campbell is never "over-the-top" by any means, nor does he overexplain anything, but after his recent novels which kept death & mayhem to a minimum, it feels like a return to his more violent-horror-movie-ish style of the late '70s/early '80s (INCARNATE, THE NAMELESS, THE PARASITE). With so many different characters & perspectives, the novel could be criticized as being too much like a series of short stories, but they're GOOD short stories. It feels like it was as fun to write as it was to read, and the last few chapters are truly anxiety-provoking. Here's hoping it's optioned as a horror movie and Campbell is paid tons of money!
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caution. Read carefully. 9 Oct 2005
By Richard L. Pangburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ramsey Campbell's THE OVERNIGHT is sly literature. Make that 'Literature.' I puzzled over the dustjacket cover before I read it, and now I think it is grand.

The book was menacing and funny at the same time. It was a deer fly buzzing round my head that I kept swatting at and missing and still it would not let me be, teasing me with menace, whispering cunning little aside jokes that make me laugh in spite of myself.

The last chapter brought it all together for me, but this is not one I would recommend to my wife. She wants to know exactly what happened, and she would not think the plot moved quickly enough nor that the ending was clear enough.

And for you? Heck, I can't tell. As I say, the writing is excellent and the bookstore setting may appeal to you. Humor and metaphor glow softly in this foggy darkness like fireflies. The author worked for a while at Borders and he takes some stabs at Book Business Bureaucracy, but that isn't exactly what the book is about. And it is so ambiguous that, if you choose to read it, you will simply have to decide for yourself.

I enjoyed it immensely.

I'm now sending for his THE DARKEST PART OF THE WOODS which is extensively blurbed on the back of the dustjacket of THE OVERNIGHT.
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