3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
i just got lost... i just got lost...,
This review is from: The Haunted Book (Hardcover)
Like his 'League Of Gentlemen' colleague, Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson clearly has a fan's passion for the supernatural in popular culture. His latest collection of short stories features everything from haunted objects, time-slips, apparitions and demonic 'elementals'.
'The haunted book' is also an enjoyable postmodern riff on the conventions of the ghost story'. Most successful ghost stories work by establishing a perspective (often from a sceptical scholar or antiquarian) that lends credence to the reality of the story - the terror mounts as this authority is gradually undermined.
Dyson establishes the act of writing the book itself, a purported fictionalised rendering of 'real life' accounts provided by a journalist, as the 'rational' ground that will be increasingly disturbed as the book progresses. We are told in a foreword that one 'Aiden Fox' suggested the project to Dyson. This is paralleled by a further realist genre, a travelogue detailing Dyson's visits to the sites of the stories.
However, it isn't long before, we find ourselves within a book within the book - 'This Book is haunted' replete with 1970s typeface and -subsequently, another 'Book of Hauntings' (with faded pages and a disturbing watermark) . There is a final meta-fictional layer in the book's final black pages - I can only say that some readers will see the ending as a clever twist, while others (myself included) will be a little disappointed - a sleight of hand that perhaps wears its heart too readily on its sleeve; a fine idea that could have been executed with a little more subtlety.
The stories themselves are wonderful; readers will find echoes of M.R. James, Roald Dahl and Dyson's own beloved Robert Aickman (surely due for a revival?). My personal favourites are 'Ward four Sixteen', and 'Tetherdown Lock' - both of which unsettle due to their purposeful ambiguity. Desire often seems to be a doorway into the uncanny, whether through the sexual drives of several of the protagonists, or simply curiosity... the unfailing need to turn that corner into the darkened corridor, turn that page to discover the dreadful secret you always knew would be waiting for you there...