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  • Once
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3.9 out of 5 stars201
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 November 2015
I've read several James Herbert books and liked them now, so it was natural I would choose to read another. I'd know about "Once..." for some time and it seemed sufficiently unlike his normal subjects such as killer rats and undead Nazis (yes, he's done them too) that it would hold my interests.
Thank goodness, it did. It was an unusual read for a James Herbert book, although that didn't give it the edge I'd hoped it would. His descriptions of a faery world just outside human perception are vivid and beautiful, although you'll see from the title of this review that it isn't too original. However, this is no pure fairy tale, even if classic fairy art did come to mind as I read it. There's violence and adult content that you wouldn't want the kids reading.
The characters are all believable, even the fantastical ones. The interplay and development of characters is good, from a cold aristocratic father, to his bitter, lackadaisical son, to the lead character, a young carpenter recovering his mobility after a premature stroke, and even a witch who is trying to claim the man's family estate who ultimately suffers a fate you may feel she didn't deserve. It takes the classic fantasy concept of a journey and turns it into an emotional journey (since no-one travels very far), which I thought was nicely original. There is even a happy-ish ending, which isn't how horror books normally go. However, the believability of the story is stretched a little too thin.
Yes, I had fun reading it and yes, do read it if you liked the author's works or this is your sort of thing. However, it doesn't have the edge to be a classic, or even a classic James Herbert.
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on 16 June 2003
Being a huge James Herbert fan I naturally coudlnt wait to get my hands on his last book - Once. After reading the sypnosis I was under the impression it was going to be amasing and different, different it was. I can't say I didn't enjoy the book because it was extremely well written however it was not his normal style. This book involves alot of sex - which isn't bad - however I think the more sex scenes has meant the lack of story input. Huge build up to a weak climax. I recommend Haunted and Ghosts of Sleath as his best novel and novel sequel.
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on 25 April 2015
I perhaps bought this slightly in error - I enjoy James Herbert's novels for all the things everybody else does: a well written mixture of drama, horror and eroticism. This audiobook however, has been far too heavily abridged (I mistakenly believed that I was buying an unabridged version), and much of the quality normally evident in Herbert's writing was missing. Whilst Robert Powell read it very well, he was reading a flawed text and I finished it annoyed and wanting to hear it again properly: in less than 3 hours, you just can't do justice to a book like this.
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on 5 November 2015
A disappointing read. Very limited story. James Herbert was an excellent author, and his writing skills and knowledge with horror keep you waiting, for a twist or more to happen. Just when it gets good it back-steps or jumps to another event, very frustrating and the story was just strung along and nothing major. Tom. Tom. Tom. The name of the main character all the way through.
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on 22 November 2001
I have been a die hard fan of James herbert since I was 11 years old, The first book I read was "The Fog", since then every book he has written has been bought, borrowed and even stolen! His whole collection of thrilling horror adorn my bookcase,all in original condition,lovingly taken care of,re-read at least half and dozen times each. In short, I think he is the greatest horror writer ever and I respect him enormously for keeping me awake and on the brink of nightmares after reading his books.
So imagine my excitement when ONCE came out, immediantly I seized it, (paid for this time!- a present) in Hardback, not wasting time, I read the whole thing in an afternoon.
I was very disappointed. What can I had a familiar ring to it, Herbert wrote, the fantastic "The Magic Cottage", ONCE was a watered down version.
Both have a Magical Cottage with strange things happening, while the occupier tried to figure out what was going on and what was going "bump in the night", both showed the "good" and the "bad" slowly emerging out of the woodwork. Both have a Forest. Both feature the Baddie being defeated. This did not feel like Herbert usual sharp rivetting style at all.
Instead it felt like a Writer who has writers block, and is desperately grabbing at old stuff and trying to churn it into new and Modern.
Inshort: RE-cycled. To read one review who compared him to JK Rowling is an insult to an Old Fan of Herberts.
The book is Pretty, illustrations will never be replace our imagination, and all I felt that effect acheived was just to reassure me that it wasn't as horrible as my imagination pictured!
After reading ONCE, I picked up my old Hardback of The Magic Cottage (of which I have two, one signed by Herbert himself years ago) and was convinced that, yes, he has lost the "magic" with his new offering.
Herbert, please restore my faith in you!
ONCE has no BITE at all.. "For adults"? Only the sexually explicit scene with a faery and a lesbian rape. Something cheap and nasty to be found in Adult mags lining the top shelf.
He has alway had a Sex-horror element in a few of his work, but it was there for a reason.This was just thrown in to pep-up the bland storyline.
I recommend MAGIC COTTAGE, ONCE you read that,(pardon the pun),you will know what I mean, to all old fans of Herbert, I am sure you will agree with me.
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on 1 May 2002
Unfortunately, "Britain's answer to Stephen King" reached his peak many years ago with 'Moon' and 'The Magic Cottage'. 'Once' is yet another disappointment. The basic idea of faerie folk living in the modern world is not particularly original, and Herbert introduces nothing new. Embarrassingly, several chapters are given over to very un-erotic sex, and the one genuinely creepy set-piece (a jar full of an infinite number of spiders) is repeated towards the end, which smacks of laziness. Herbert always comes over as a genuinely nice guy, and it would be good to see him come up with something heart-warming as he did with 'Fluke' rather than re-hashed horror/fantasy. Come on James, how about giving us a damn good read again?
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on 16 May 2002
I don't think James Herbert is a good writer. His prose is unwieldy and his characters lifeless. However, he is often a good storyteller, and he has a talent for creating macabre horror set-pieces, for example the man pecked to death by his racing pigeons in "The Fog".
Every so often though the James Herbert Fiction Machine throws a wobbly and we get something like "Once". The premise, that fairies really do exist at the bottom of the garden, is interesting enough, but the story gets lost among endless descriptions of the countryside and the inclusion of laughable attempts at erotic scenes does nothing to help.
My advice is, give it a miss.
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on 1 January 2014
Despite a few sections being terribly long-winded for me, I loved the way Herbert painted the scenery. I literally felt like I was in the sunny woods, in the small stone cottage and enjoying the subtle flowers. When the elements of fantasy ebb into the story it is so enthralling that you cannot look away! Herbert has really done his research when it comes to elves, brownies, imps, gnomes, and the far more darker creatures that haunt the shadows. He also draws a lot of attention on things not being as they appear. Although, there are a few moments where the main character is being slap-your-head ignorant, but then I suppose it adds to the anticipation of his reaction when HE gets onto the same page as YOU! Excellent twists and turns!
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on 15 May 2002
I expected a 'SCARY' version of a fairy-tale but what I actually found was an 'ADULT' version of a fairy-tale. Adult being sexual content rather than the thrills and chills of a good horror read. 'Once' had all the usual fairy tale content, the good witch (actually a mermaid type girl), the evil witch, who, to Herbert's credit, was in fact deliciously evil and the good elf who helps our hero. I was expecting more from an author of such brilliant novels as 'Creed' and 'The Dark' but I was disappointed by the fact that the sexual content seemed to overpower the storyline.
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on 5 June 2011
This book is outstanding! I read the book a few years ago and enjoyed it so much that I decided to buy the audio to enjoy on my long journey to work. The audio-book version is equally as good as the book. An adult fairy tale (with characteristics of fairy tales from childhood including witches, elves, and goblins). However,some readers may find some of the sexually explicit content offensive. As one reviewer suggests the sexual descriptions are 'graphic'. In my view this content is tastefully and imaginatively presented throughout. An all round fantastic read. This is one of my favourite ever books. Five stars for an all round excellent story. Once
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