Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Damned

The Damned, by Algernon Blackwood

An English brother and sister go to stay a while at the home of a widowed friend of the sister's.  While there, they sense that something is terribly wrong about the place-- yet find it difficult to pinpoint the cause of their unease. 

My Reaction:
Well... It's not awful, for this kind of thing, but no, I would not recommend this book to many people.  Only those rare few who like horror stories where nothing really happens... and those who can't get enough theologically-themed psychobabble.  (I suspect that such people are rare.)

Before reading this short novel, I knew nothing of the author and only selected this book because I found it in my first in-depth browse of  (which I do recommend, incidentally).  It was free-- and short-- so why not?  Well, I'll tell you why not:  It's pretty dull and repetitive.  Anyway, I'll go into a few more details of my (mostly) dislike below-- with spoilers.  Otherwise... I'll give another of his books a chance.  One with higher ratings.  If that one fails to impress, he's off my to-read list for the time being. 

Possibly Spoilery Comments:
--  I lost count of the (many, many) times that the narrator (the brother) complains (for lack of a better word) that "nothing happens" at the so-called haunted house.  Argh!  Look, man; we know nothing's happening!  ...And unlike some few readers/reviewers, I find myself on the side of the many who don't think that repeatedly stating that "nothing happening" is part of the indefinable "horror" makes up for the fact that... nothing happens.  I mean, really?  I like old-fashioned tales with more atmosphere and less gore/monsters jumping around corners, but you gotta give me something

--  "The desire for violence came over me.  If only she would say a definite thing in plain King's English!"  Ha!!  We can relate, narrator.  

--  Toward the end of the book:  "There was no climax in the story sense.  Nothing ever really happened."  (Cue the nervous laughter edged with hysteria.)

--  Couldn't help but notice the frequent disparaging use of the word "suburban".  Struck me as odd.  I am not particularly impressed by disdain for the suburbs.  Sorry.

--  "Wellingtonias" (aka giant redwoods or sequoias) and "monkey trees".  Funny plant names I don't recall seeing before.

--  The "coincidence" of this particular spot having been cursed by the awful thoughts of so many different groups of people... Hm.  Mighty big coincidence, there. 

--  Ohmygosh, the anti-religion psychobabble!!  ...When I come right down to it, that's what I disliked most about the story-- and you can't exactly look past it, because that's the gist of the whole thing.  I keep reading that Blackwood was not against the idea of God-- just the evil that man (and man-made religion) does in the name of God.  Particularly the "intolerant" idea of damnation for those who don't believe ABC or XYZ.  ...And I get that.  I mean, obviously some people have done and still do awful things in the name of God-- things that God condemns.  But on the other hand, I can't go along with this New Age-y idea of all religions being equal or true... I just can't.  So.  That was a bit detrimental to my enjoyment of this book.  ;o) 

--  Still, when it wasn't being preachy (ironic!) and long-winded, there were times when it was creepy or suspenseful enough that I didn't want to read it when alone in the house-- or at night, in bed.  The episode that takes place in the middle of the night?  Very creepy-crawly.  (A pity that most of the story was so analytical that the eerieness was blunted, if not completely smothered out of existence.)

--  Mabel's belief that she was hopelessly damned reminded me uncomfortably of the journals of L.M. Montgomery, where she writes about her own (reverend) husband's frequent obsessive conviction that he himself was preordained for damnation.  ~shudder~  So, yes.  When you stop to consider that that part of the book, at least, has some basis in reality... That is truly horrifying.