This is one of the few horror novels I’ve read which has genuinely scared me (this is an understatement – it actually kind of slowly crawls into your imagination and never quite leaves). It contains some of the best characterisation and narration that I’ve ever seen too. Plus, for a horror novel, it’s a surprisingly long book at nearly 500 pages in length [correction, the story is 500 pages long – but there are some additional parts after it too].
It’s also impossible to talk about this book in any detail without at least some mild plot spoilers, so I’ll be careful how I write this review. But, you have been warned.
“Slights” begins when Stevie, the narrator, is driving home from lunch with her mother. Any story which begins with the lines: ‘What should have happened was this: We got a taxi home’ ….probably isn’t going to be a particularly cheerful story. Anyway, they are involved in a serious car accident which causes Stevie to have a near-death experience. What she sees during the brief time in which she is clinically dead changes her life irrevocably….
I’d love to summarise even the beginning of the story in more detail, but it’s a lot creepier if you don’t know that much about this when you start reading it….. Seriosuly, don’t even read the blurb on the back cover of the book, if you can help it. In fact, if you like horror, then stop reading this review and start reading “Slights” instead.
Although “Slights” is a novel about death, it is also a novel about life too. Stevie’s life to be precise. One structural device which I really liked in this book is how each chapter covers a year of Stevie’s life, starting from when she is eighteen. This theme is carried on by the fact that quite a lot of the story is just about Stevie’s everyday life and, although this can get mildly boring at times, all of the various small and large mysteries in the story and the narration itself keep the story interesting.
I cannot praise the narration in this story highly enough. Stevie is a truly complicated character and Warren’s excellent first-person narration really gives you a very strong insight into her chacter and personlity. This is, in fact, one of the many things which makes this novel so creepy – since Stevie isn’t always the most understandable or sympathetic person in the world, but you see everything from her perspective nonetheless. This also makes the whole novel intensely subjective too, although I guess that it’s up to you to decide whether Stevie is an unreliable narrator or not.
Another strength of this novel are the small mysteries in it – the most notable one being the items which Stevie finds in the garden of her family home. The explanation for this is hinted at very strongly , but the reader has to at least partially work it out for themselves. Which makes it even creepier in some ways.
This is the really interesting, and brilliant, thing about this novel – Warren manages to combine both subtle psychological horror and more overt/gruesome/intense horror in such a way that that they compliment each other rather than overshadowing each other.
In fact, this is a horror novel which is very different from many horror novels. It’s almost even a literary novel which just happens to be about a number of very dark subjects rather than a “horror novel” as such. Almost.
Saying anything about the ending to this book runs the risk of spoilers, so I won’t say anything about the ending. If you’ve read “Slights”, then you’ll know what I’m talking about here…
In conclusion, this book is an absolute must-read for any horror fans. But if you’re expecting a fast-paced story with lots of blood and guts on every page, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it’d probably get a five at the very least.