Since I was a child I have enjoyed a good ghost story. I grew up reading the Fontana Book Of Ghost Stories among others, so I was looking forward to reading The Guardians. Luckely I was not dissapointed. Andrew Pyper has written a good supernatural chiller with plenty of scares and good characterisation. Rather like Stephen King's excellent novel It, The Guardians is set party in the past during the characters childhood and later in present day where the children now grownup return to the house to once again face the horror that lurkes there. This is a good scary novel and best read while sitting by the fire with a nice drink. Enjoy.
on 14 July 2011
The Guardians by Andrew Pyper
I have loved Andrew Pyper darkly, seductive novels, all of them are very different on the surface but underneath they all have similar characteristics, human anxieties and secrets and misgivings.
'The Guardians' has shades of Stephen King's IT and The Body in this 'coming of age' supernatural thriller but there is nothing wrong with that and Pyper doesn't put a foot wrong! The local haunted house has become part of urban mythology and the Thurman House in the Guardians represents that old abandoned spooky house in our town that we all ran past as children.
Trevor, Randy, Ben and Carl were boyhood friends until, looking for a missing person, they went into the Thurman House and what they found there changed them forever. They are bound by a vow of silence about what they found and the terrible things that happened in the house. Years later Trevor returns to Grimshaw for the funeral of Ben, the only one who stayed behind 'to watch the house' and to makes sure whatever was in there didn't escape. He committed suicide...
Accompanied by Randy, Trevor arrives in Grimshaw, Carl joins them for the tragic reunion to find history has a nasty habit of repeating itself and once again, they are forced to venture into the malevolent Thurman House.
The author uses a wonderful duel narrative from Trevor, present day and the past, his 'Memory Diary' using a Dictaphone on which he records episodes from his childhood. The pacing is superb, giving the reader precious little time to contemplate events before hurtling you into the next incident. The story has a perfect balance between the believable and the paranormal and Pyper's imagery is vivid and visceral full of compelling menace
Of course it really is all about friendship, rite of passage, what it is to become a man, and to be a man but as someone said it is a terrifying and breathless and as a midnight dare to run through your local graveyard...
on 10 April 2012
Although I found this quite a slow start,it was in the end a very good story.It picked up pace quite significantly once all the friends had been reunited.Then the happenings of the past that tied them together were slowly revealed chapter by chapter.This is about a house stood empty for years,a murder,an abduction and group of school friends.Is the house really haunted?Do each of them see the same ghost or is it a reflection of themselves in their own mind.One friend stays at home as a "watcher" and keeps his diary telling what he sees,this is all his life consists of and I could not work out from the story why he actually took his own life,but he obviously had deteriorated through living as he did to a state of despair.Each one had dealt differently with the things that they had seen and done, and they are all a pretty mixed up lot,not surprisingly-as the events they had a hand in were sure to stay with them how ever far away they went.The story picked up pace very quickly from about half way through bringing the whole thing neatly together,no loose ends-- and the house?? The best thing that could happen to it;happened.
Obviously influenced by Stephen King, this horror novel is a decent page-turner. Set just outside of Ontario, it deals with themes recurring in King's work - age, regret, childhood, the lack of a father figure, returning home and so on. A group of youngsters are party to horrific acts and then go their separate ways as is the case with youth. Decisions made lead them to different futures, much like 'The Body/Stand By Me'. Some leave town, some become successful, some are left behind (It). Drugs claim victims, meaningless mediocrity claim others but it is the suicide of one of their number that leads the group back home.
We follow Trev, ex-nightclub owner and successful businessman, as he returns to the town of his youth (a la 'Salem's Lot). Partly disabled (too many King books to mention), Trev and his fellow Guardians (the name of the Ice Hockey team the friends all played for in their youth) return to bury their deceased friend, the one who took it upon himself to watch over the house that has haunted them for 20 odd years...
Now it might seem that I'm saying that this book is a rip-off of King, but then many books in the genre are rip-offs of others, and most are done far more poorly than this. Pyper builds good characters - the druggie, the laconic everyman, the weary and frightened lead - and mixes it with a strong sense of their community. The major gripe I have is that the end is done and dusted too quickly and conveniently.
That aside, this is a good, solid book. Yes it could be more 'original', but it keeps you coming back until you've finished it.
I'll begin by saying I enjoyed this book and that, when you really think about it, is all that matters. It's well constructed, the characters are recognisable as people we know and have bck stories of their own and while it's not exacly scary, it rattles along nicely and a couple of times it made me turn the heating up. It's an old fashioned haunted house tale where a group of grown ups reflect on faded glories and insecurities and come to terms with the past... just like a Stephen King book. Yes, like others I recognised familiar (and favourite) themes from Mr King's work, but this book is not a straight rip-off and it has its own identity. Andrew Pyper deserves credit for writing a creditable thriller with thrills and chills that does not degenerate to tedious slasher rampages or rely on maverick cops/forensic specialists to wok it all out for us but it's really a chiller and I'd say you'd have to be a very nervous individual to be actually scared. All in all, a good yarn best savoured on chilly nights when you have the house to yourself. I'm not sure it ould work quite so well reading this on a sunny beach.
on 25 July 2015
Not sure exactly what to say as i have mixed emotions. On the one hand i liked the story but on the other i had trouble with it because of the terminology he used. It called for a lot of concentration, too much concentration. It seemed like the author was trying too hard, which was not necessary. I did not get to the end as i could not keep up the level of concentration to follow his speech. Shame! But i have bettrt things to do with my time and more books to read.
I read this book quickly over the course of a couple of days, so can vouch that it is indeed a page turner. With a sufficiently gripping story it can be easy to overlook poor writing but happily Andre Pyper's prose seems to stand up pretty well. Yes, it's familiar territory: a story-within-a-story featuring a coming of age tale with a supernatural twist and aged heroes reuniting to face an unresolved mystery. And it's a difficult genre as a good author will build up the reader's tension and spark the darkest reaches of our imagination, so any resolution to such a tale is almost bound to be an anticlimax. It is probably fair to cite these standard problems as the weaknesses here, and yet they are still dealt with rather well. This is a genuinely creepy story, well-paced and plotted with an interesting central character. It may not change your life, but if you are looking to raise a few goosebumps then this should do the job nicely.
on 24 July 2011
I don't read a lot of Canadian authors. Not because I have anything against them of course, it's just that I rarely seem to come across them on my bookish travels. The last book I read that was actually set in Canada, prior to this one, was probably Moonheart or another title by Charles DeLint. I mention this because the Canadian setting in this book is very noticeable due to the constant references to Ice Hockey. The Guardians of the title for example, are primarily, the hockey team for which the key characters played as young men. That Canadian identity is really the first thing that struck me about this book, and it contributes to a strong sense of place which I really liked.
The story is told in the first person, from the perspective of one character in two different time periods. One is naturally enough, the present, and the other is revealed in extracts from the same character's journal, providing an unreliable narrative of events that happened in 1984. In the present the main character, Trevor, has learned that one of his best friends from childhood has taken his own life. Trevor has been appointed as executor of the will, and must travel back to the small town of Grimshaw where he grew up, in order to attend the funeral and carry out his late friend's final wishes. Which means going back to confront a past he had long hoped was behind him. It's not just the emotional difficulty of confronting the past that Trevor must deal with either, in the present he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and is already suffering from diminished mobility and other effects of the condition.
As boys, Trevor and his friends Ben, Randy and Carl were involved in a shocking event that took place in an abandoned house long considered haunted. The events at the Thurman House left each of them scarred in their own way, and now Ben, the only one who stayed in Grimshaw, has committed suicide. When Trevor returns to Grimshaw himself, events occur which have an eerie parallel to those from the past.
This novel is definitely creepy and atmospheric, but more than that it is melancholic, and actually quite sad in places. It is a story about friendship and about the passage of life. It certainly resonated with me and in some ways with where I am at this time in my own life. Not the obvious areas of drama, but I am approaching a similar age to the main characters in the story, and this is as much a book about the onset of middle-age as anything else. It is a story about the events that shape a person's life, and what we do with them as we attempt to move forward.
I think it's fair to say that this is actually a fairly masculine book as well. I don't mean in a posturing, strutting, blood and adrenalin way. But in that it very much centres on the bonds that men and boys form with one another, and the way that men feel they need to be in the world. Again, a lot of this I really connected with, but I do wonder if female readers will connect as easily.
Originally, I expected this to be little more than an enjoyable haunted house story. In actuality there is much more to it than that. At its heart, The Guardians is a classic coming of age story with supernatural overtones, in the tradition of Stephen King's IT and The Body (which became the film, Stand by Me). It has all the ingredients of an atmospheric chiller, a suspenseful crime thriller, and an excellent focus point in the abandoned Thurman House. Above all, it is an emotive story about the passage of time, and the importance of overcoming the shadows of the past.
on 17 March 2011
"The Guardians" is a ghoulish haunted house tale set in Canada, involving a group of former high school ice hockey players (the eponymous Guardians) now in their forties and hampered by their own Achilles Heels, summoned back to the town of their collective childhoods after the death of a close friend.
Their return opens up old wounds, rekindles old passions, and revisits old shared childhood experiences that they'd hoped they'd left in the dim and distant past, only for the death of their friend and their subsequent arrival in town to awaken it again.
For me there are clear similarities to Stephen King's It both in style and content. Both novels are about childhood friends having to reunite as adults, return to their childhood hometown and confront unfinished supernatural business lying almost forgotten in their past, one or more of the adults having died along the way. Both have narrative streams set in the present day with regular interludes set in the past to inform the reader of what happened then. Pyper even uses a Canadian version of familiar King-type references to the minutae of "Ezee-Kleen" and "Krazy Kevin" style brand names.
Nevertheless Pyper is a very good writer and whether consciously emulating King or not, he's managed to find a similarly engaging style of writing which draws the reader in and keeps her or him turning the pages. More twists to the plot develop as the story unfolds and the author conjures up some pretty powerful scenes; I found the protagonists' later dealings with their team coach particularly vividly constructed.
Though the film Grindstone Road  bears a few similarities to this story (and for me, I found the character Ben's attic vigil reminiscent of scenes from The Sentinel  )it would probably make for a decent film in its own right.
on 28 February 2011
With an impressive CV of thrillers to his credit including The Killing Circle (2009), New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year and Lost Girls (2000), which won the Arthur Ellis Award, Andrew Pyper now turns his pen to more supernatural matters with The Guardians.
Four hockey playing teenagers, Ben, Randy, Carl and Trevor are growing up in the Canadian town of Grimshaw. It's a world of girls, hockey and school, but increasingly the boys lives become afflicted by the worries and complex relationships of adult life. "Ben had been the first of us to take a punch from the grown up world", says Trevor following the death of Ben's father. Casting a constant shadow over the boys lives is the old Thurman Place, a deserted building opposite Ben's house with a troubled past. Following the disappearance of their favourite teacher the boy's are forced to follow a trail deep into the dark shadows of the old house with consequences that will haunt them into their adult life.
Told in a dual narrative style, The Guardians successfully builds an atmosphere of foreboding around the haunted house elevating it beyond the traditional ghost house into a much darker focal point. Part of the narrative is told by Trevor who is afflicted by Parkinson's disease and part of his treatment is the writing of a memory diary. The tragedy of Trevor's illness is neatly contrasted against the innocence of youth at the start of the book. The gradual loss of that youthful innocence is a key driver in the narrative and this part of the tale is reminiscent of Stephen King's The Body as we watch youthful exuberance gradually turn to grown-up tragedy.
The characters are all brilliantly realised and the complex relationships tightly woven into a fast moving plot. Above all though the house is an excellent creation and whilst it exhibits all the usual cliches (creaky doors, dark cellar etc) it ramps up the supernatural threat, as more of it's backstory is revealed, to make it a genuinely chilling place. Everywhere the boys go, everything the men do, is overshadowed by the Thurman Place, ultimately it holds their dark secrets and they are compelled to return.
It really is hard to fault this book, as a character study it's full of emotion, as a thriller it's full of tension but most importantly as a supernatural horror its a dark and deeply chilling tale, The Guardians is a welcome addition to the horror bookshelf.