9 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Slights by Kaaron Warren

Title: Slights

Author: Kaaron Warren

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: July 1, 2009 (UK release) / October 2009 (US Release)
Paperback: 528 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Stand alone novel.

Why did I read this book: As official ensigns of the Angry Robot Army, we were offered

Summary: (from AngryRobot.com)
Stephanie is a killer. After an accident in which her mother dies, she has a near-death experience and finds herself in a room full of people – everyone she’s ever pissed off. They clutch at her, scratch and tear at her. But she finds herself drawn back to this place, again and again, determined to unlock its secrets. Which means she has to die, again and again.

And she starts to wonder whether other people see the same room… when they die.

Review:

What should have happened was this:
We got a taxi home.

These brief words mark the beginning of Stevie’s story. After a celebratory lunch with her mother and a few glasses of wine, Stevie drives home. She swerves out of the way of what she thinks is a child in the road and slams into a wall, killing her mother in the passenger seat. Stevie nearly dies, remembering her mother’s screams and awakens in a cold, dark room smelling of mothballs and shit and pain, surrounded by angry faces with unblinking eyes. She lives though, revived back to the world of the living, but Stevie remembers the cold room. The many faces that surrounded her are people from her past and her life; they are the faces of everyone she has ever slighted, and Stevie knows they are waiting to destroy her. It becomes Stevie’s fascination, this cold room at the edge of death, and she tries to revisit it again and again.

I’m not sure how to write this review.

I don’t think I have the words to describe how dark and depraved and strangely, perversely heartbreaking Slights is.

The official synopsis and my own above barely scratch the surface of what this novel is truly about. Yes, Stevie is addicted to her near death experiences, and yes, there is an unsettling mystery of old bones and trinkets and murder in this novel. And yet…this doesn’t do Slights justice. This is a twisted memoir; a pastiche of Stevie’s life; an unrelenting suicide note. Every chapter unfolds in yearly increments – each separated by Stevie’s birthdays following the death of her mother – and gradually reveals Stevie’s past, with her troubled childhood, overlayed with the present gradual deterioration of all her relationships, eventually culminating in her complete and total alienation. Slights is impossible to skim or rush through because of the nature of these chapters, flitting from memory to present, narrated in Stevie’s minimalist, yet darkly chimerical voice. There is a tenuous thread of plot, but this is much more of an examination of character over time than it is a mystery or a linear story.

But as difficult as Slights is to classify, it is infinitely more difficult to put down. I could not stop reading this book, plain and simple. Even when the subject matter involved pedophilia, bitterly painful family scenes, brutality, murder, or – most disturbing of all – the echoing loneliness of despair, I could not tear myself away from this book. Stevie, in her first person narration, is the book, and for all her sociopathic flaws, I couldn’t help but feel for her. Certainly, it’s not Stevie’s intent (nor Ms. Warren’s) to win any sympathies from the reader – like everyone else in her life, Stevie is antagonism personified, pushing away anyone that tries to get close to her, mocking the amiability and affection of others as weakness. And yet, at the heart of Stevie’s noxious thoughts, buried beneath her indifference and venom, she’s just a very messed up person reaching for attention. And having insight to her thoughts, free of pretense, as well as her disturbing past and family heritage, well…it allows the reader to at least understand why Stevie is who she is.

It is testament to Ms. Warren’s skill as a writer that she can inspire any feelings of sympathy at all in this book, especially considering the dark nature of the subject matter. The writing, in itself, is flawless. This is not hyperbole. Her bare-bones writing style, completely free of excessive adjectives or unnecessary descriptions (a style that one reviewer has aptly labeled as “minimalistic”), and the entirely convincing voice of her narrator is brilliant. The writing, effective characterization, and the sheer rawness of Slights makes this a visceral read, and one of the best horror novels I have read not only in 2009, but in years.

Ms. Warren’s brand of terror isn’t of the popular gore or the usual supernatural variety; instead, she drags us through the horror of apathy, the terror of what lurks beneath the veneer of the usual and commonplace.

And it is frankly terrifying how great a book this is.

Notable Quotes/Parts: An excerpt of the excellent first chapter of Slights is available online at Angry Robot, HERE. Check it out for yourself, if you don’t believe me.

Additional Thoughts: Slights marks one of two launch titles for Angry Robot, the new Harper Collins imprint specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and WTF?

Slights will be released in the UK & Australia on July 1, 2009 and will hit stores in the US in September. You can pre-order the book online at Amazon UK.

Verdict: Slights is a forceful, harrowing read, and is not only the best horror novel but one of the best books I have read in 2009. Be warned, this is a dark read and certainly isn’t for everyone…but I loved it. Absolutely recommended, for those with a strong constitution.

Rating: 9 Damn Near Perfection

Reading Next: Namaah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

You Might Also Like

12 Comments

  • Rhiannon Hart
    June 17, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Wow, what a heavy sounding book–being addicted to her near death experiences, that sounds rather Flatliners to me, but the rest seems pretty damn original. I don’t think I’ll pick this one up as my constitution is kitten-like at best (the cover looks scary enough!) but great review.

    PS. Is “WTF?” really a genre of Angry Robot?

  • Gerd Duerner
    June 17, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Yeah, not the book I would like to read at this point in my life, a few years up or down the road it may be/would have been more up what I’m willing to stomach, paedophilia and family abuse is certainly not what I want to read about currently.
    But it sounds disturbing in a thoughtful way, not just set-out to break down some boundaries of good taste.
    So, is that the new Horror generation? Psychological Splatterpunk. 🙂

    I love the cover, it’s great for a horror novel, it’s unsettling and the book Imprint fits it to a T; Angry Robot? perfect, because my first thought when I looked at it was “That looks like Screamers.” :p

  • Diana Peterfreund
    June 17, 2009 at 5:11 am

    That cover gave me nightmares when I first saw it.

  • katiebabs
    June 17, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Stevie tries to kill herself so she can have these near death experiences?
    Oh yeah the cover is very freaky.

  • Karen Mahoney
    June 17, 2009 at 5:59 am

    I have to say I really feel drawn to this book. I managed to get a look at someone else’s review copy and read just the first few pages to see if it’s something I’ll buy… Those pages FREAKED ME OUT, dude! LOL. Like, really had me feeling unsettled for the next hour. I am a wimp. 😉

    I know I’ll read it, I just think I need to be in the right frame of mind – you know? But your review has made me certain this is a book I HAVE TO READ, even if it makes me squirm. I love it when authors aren’t afraid to look at the really awful stuff that comes out of humanity.

    Great review! 🙂

  • Thea
    June 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Rhiannon – I hesitate to say that the book is just boils down to Stevie and her fascination with the room after death; for the first 200 pages (beyond the initial chapter), the room and the ‘slighted’ aren’t even mentioned. It’s not so much about the room as a real place, but about the character and why she thinks this room exists when she dies. I’m rubbish at explaining 😛

    (Though I will say, I loved [i]Flatliners[/i]. Hehe)

    This is definitely not a book for everyone – it’s unsettling and disturbing in the extreme. But, that said, if you’re in the mood for unsettling and disturbing, I cannot think of a better book :mrgreen:

    Oh, and to answer your question, YES “WTF?” is an official Angry Robot genre. LOL. I kid you not. (From the mission statement: “Angry Robot ™ is a new global publishing imprint from the rather wonderful HarperCollins. Our mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!”)

    Gerd – Fair enough, and I can completely understand the sentiment!

    [i]So, is that the new Horror generation? Psychological Splatterpunk. [/i]

    Oh, I hope so. So many books and films in the genre are of the splatter/gorno variety. Gore and torture for the sake of it – which is awesome when it’s done well (I’m talking Alexandre Aja and [i]High Tension[/i]). But more often than not, these films are cloned, soulless vessels with absolutely no integrity. Ms. Warren explores a different type of horror, and I think it’s a brand that fans will be hungry for.

    And YES! That’s what the cover reminds me of! [i]Screamers[/i], brilliant 🙂

    Diana – It’s fabulously creepy, isn’t it? Angry Robot has some sweet covers, this one and the one for [i]Nekropolis[/i] are just stunning. I love it.

    You know, in a nightmare giving kind of way.

    Katie – Yes, that’s right. Herself and others…well. You know where this sort of obsession leads.

    Karen – Yes, exactly! Unsettling. It’s the perfect way to describe this book. I don’t think I’ve read a novel this disturbing & horrific (I mean this in the best possible way) since a few years back when I finished [i]House of Leaves[/i]. For both books, you just have to be ready to take on a very dark, twisted endeavor – I totally understand what you mean.

    But, knowing your tastes, I think you will LOVE this book. Maybe be deeply disturbed by it, but that’s the point, isn’t it? DOOOO IT. You won’t be sorry 😈

  • Meljean
    June 17, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’m going to wait until September, but I’m totally sold.

  • orannia
    June 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you Thea! This sounds good, but dark and twisted and scary and….lots of things. It does sounds like a fantastic book, but I think I might take a note of the title and wait until I am in a slightly happier place before I pick it up 🙂

  • Review « Kaaron Warren
    June 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    […] 18, 2009 by kaaronwarren The Book Smugglers have reviewed ‘Slights’. It’s a heartfelt review which makes me relieved to know […]

  • Luke Formey
    June 27, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Wow, I am incrediblly honored to even be linked to over here. I just got my copy of Slights in the mail today and I can’t wait to start in on it.

  • Rhona Houston
    August 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    I JUST finished reading this book, i couldn’t put it down. Its amazing, pure and simple. It smacks of The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks, simply because you sort of see whats coming, its frightening and disgusting, but you don’t want to leave Stevie alone to face it. I think its one of the best i’ve read, and i’m going to make my friends buy it too.

  • Anonymous
    May 24, 2011 at 6:30 am

    i love this book

Leave a Reply