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Shadowland [Mass Market Paperback]

Peter Straub
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1984
First setting: an all-male prep school in Arizona, where two sensitive freshmen form a bond based on their interest in magic tricks. Second setting: the labyrinthine house of a weird magician uncle in New England, where the two boys spend a memorable summer being trained in the art of illusion. Or is it real magic? Third setting: an alternate world where dark forces are at play - forces that first show up at the school, but intensify their power throughout the summer. Only one of them will make it through
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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First setting: an all-male prep school in Arizona, where two sensitive freshmen form a bond based on their interest in magic tricks. Second setting: the labyrinthine house of a weird magician uncle in New England, where the two boys spend a memorable summer being trained in the art of illusion. Or is it real magic? Third setting: an alternate world where dark forces are at play--forces that first show up at the school, but intensify their power the summer. Shadowland is a superb, under-recognized, early novel from a master of literary terror. Get it while it's back in print! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'Frightening enough to jolt even the most jaded ghost story addict. Straub can write superb horror.' Washington Post 'Intriguing and appealing! poised and accomplished.' Sunday Times 'Truly fantastic! a work of literary magic.' Miami Herald 'Creepy from page one! a grand slam! I loved it.' STEPHEN KING --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
The last day of summer vacation: high cloudless skies, dry intense heat; endings and beginnings, deaths and promises, hover regretfully in the air. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the deepest book I have ever read April 17 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have been reading since a young age, and this is quite simply my favorite book. Some books tend to meander all over the place; others tend to load up on the details to try and fill out a sparse story wihch would be better off a short story. Not so with Shadowland, a truly monumental literary accomplishment which is completely under-rated. The massive amount of details in the story help to bring the story to life, to bring the reader closer into the story.
Shadowland is not for everyone. But if you are on the same wavelength as the story you will find what is easily the finest piece of writing in existance. The magnitude and depth of the story, the only other books I can think of comparing would be Tarot by Piers Anthony or the Dark Tower series by Stephen King; IF he gets the totally extraneous side plotline books out of the way!
It is a true shame that Straub's other works get more attention, I consider Shadowland to be his absolute finest masterpiece. This book really does belong to the ages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars High-end horror Nov. 26 2003
By TLS
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Shadowland, by Peter Straub, is a piece of really excellent high-end horror. The book begins in a private prep school for boys. In this school, Del and Tom, two freshmen boys fascinated by magic, find each other and form a strong friendship. Together, they learn card tricks, try to figure out why the whole school is having nightmares, dodge the crazy headmaster of the school, and do the sort of pal-around that only boys of a certain age can do. Their school year culminates with a big talent show in which Del and Tom plan to perform a magical exhibition. Circumstances in the story keep this from happening and the boys retire for the summer to the estate of Del's uncle, Shadowland.
Del's uncle is a half-crazy, alcoholic, retired magician. He sets about teaching the boys magic. His magic, though, consists of more than tricking the eye with a slight of hand. At Shadowland, nothing is as it seems. An hour can feel like all day. The sun can set at 11am. You can find yourself suddenly half-way across a continent, just to find that you haven't moved from your spot at all. There are others living at Shadowland that are unseen, and whose existence is denied. There are rules that are made in the hopes of being broken. As Del's uncle spends the summer recounting his life, in all it's horror, to the boys Tom realizes that the horror is only starting. As he sees things that can't be real, but are, and he sees the immediate horrors being committed at Shadowland, Tom realizes that he has to leave, and Del must come with him. Unfortunately, for Tom and Del, Uncle Collins has realized something about Tom that even Tom doesn't yet know - and he wants it for himself.
In Shadowland, Peter Straub has written a brilliant piece of fiction. There are plots, subplots, and subplots within those.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a review without a catchy title Oct. 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed this book. It was the first Peter Straub I have read, and since then I have also read Houses Without Doors. Peter Straub is often refered to by those who need labels for things as a "more intellectualized Steven King". There is some truth to this, but not a lot. Straub's writing is less colloquial, less immediate, than King's, and he lacks King's instinctive (some might even say addictive) sense of humor. In other ways, though, many similarities can be drawn between their writing, which is why, although it has been called a lesser work, I enjoyed the Talisman (and Black House, too).
Back to the matter at hand.
Straub's writing is quite beautiful. There is a penetrating lyricism in it. In his hands, the mundane becomes as terrifying as the bizzare, and a simple glance at a passerby out of a train window can be as numbing, or more, as the macabre violence that eventually follows (and, rest assured, it is indeed to follow- one scene towards the end literally turned my stomach- you Will realize what scene I refer to when reading it, I am sure).
The story is of two friends at a decaying authoritarian prep school in the Southwest. The second story is of these two boys' apprenticing under one's uncle, an aging magician who is on the brink of madness.
There is such a clean break of setting between the two large sections that it creates some problems- which Straub effectively fixes.
Almost.
A web of interconnected images and characters connect the sections to each other, and these are well acheived and fascinating. However, the division is almost unbridgable.
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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Peter Straub is a very intelligent thinker when writing about occult matters. However, I found this book very confusing at times--wondering what was happening. In many places Straub could simplify his language rather than drawing out the entire plot with unneeded pages of action and details that bare no significance whatsoever. Like at the end, where you want the novel to end, he builds it up without giving a very specific ending. He wastes time on imagery that we simply don't care about, whereas in other areas of the book he is very stingy and cheap with details--making it very hard to understand what is happening.
His allusion to other Literature is very thought-provoking, though it helps to have read these stories beforehand, otherwise you might get a little lost in the symbolism in his story.
Finally, if you don't know who Eliphas Levi and other characters like Aleister Crowley are, you will be doubly lost. They are writers on the occult and some, like Crowley are practitioners. However, I find it remarkable how Straub includes non-fictional characters in a fictional story and uses this as a basis to interject his own personal thoughts on them. Straub gives us his opinion on various things like Christianity--that the true religion is Jesus' learnings, not the modern day preversion of priests and ministers. He draws many parallels and employs the use of metaphor heavily throughout Shadowland.
The story becomes cliche when the characters take on a Jesus versus the Devil theme later in the novel. It becomes rather gaudy when Straub tries to create an allegory to Christ and his crucifixion, by actually using one character to represent Judas--who is later referred to as "a Judas.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Before Harry Potter there was...
This was a favorite book of mine when it came out (I was in junior high when it came out in paperback the first time). Read more
Published on March 6 2004 by Timothy Capehart
5.0 out of 5 stars Scariest book I ever read
This got me started on Peter Straub. I read Ghost Story, Koko, Mystery, and If you could see me now all because of Shadowland. I could not put this book down. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2004 by james miscavish
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadowland...
I read this book in high school and had no trouble understanding it. Those reviewers who suggest a Stephen King novel over Shadowland obviously have problems with stories that have... Read more
Published on Feb. 5 2004 by varnya
3.0 out of 5 stars Good writing to get lost in
If you are a fan of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling and have read all their stuff too many times, this is a fair substitute. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by Tiffany Delahunt
5.0 out of 5 stars My copy is battered
I re-read this book about once a year. It is a fascinating interwoven story of fairy tales, magic, coming-of-age and the loss of innocence. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2003 by Stacey DuFord
3.0 out of 5 stars It's pretty good
"Shadowland" tells the story of a young man who becomes a man at a mansion of magick. A young man accompanies his prep school roomate to his uncle's house, who is actually a... Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2003 by Vagabond77
4.0 out of 5 stars The first rule of Magic
I bought this book after reading The Talisman, which Straub cowrote with Stephen King, and I loved it. Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing---in a good way.
I completely agree with a previous comment about this novel making a great film. I would love to see some of those fantastic scenes played out on the big screen. Read more
Published on March 22 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disconnected, Cumbersome Book
This book is one of the most poorly written books I have read in a long time. Straub shifts between present day and the 1950's so often and irregularly that the reader is left... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2003 by James H. Wasilko
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disconnected, Cumbersome Book,
This is one of the most poorly organized books I have read in a long time. Straub shifts between present day and the 1950's so often it becomes very difficult to follow the... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2003 by James H. Wasilko
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