Slights Mass Market Paperback – Aug 31 2010
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"Minutely detailed events and conversations are progressively undercut with singsong variations of "This is what should have happened.... This is what did happen." In the sickening blur of Stevie's narrative, what "really" happens is both uncertain and obvious; the details she commands so confidently are infinitely mutable, but the gruesome consequences slowly become apparent. With outstanding control, Warren manipulates Stevie's voice to create a portrait of horror that in no way reads like a first novel." - Publisher's Weekly (starred review and Pick of the Week)
"The best horror of 2009" - Genreville (Publishers Weekly's genre blog, referring to previous edition)
"I've never seen anyone capture sordid human nature so clearly. I was completely drawn in, totally immersed. I felt ill much of the time." - Russell Kirkpatrick
"Simply gut-wrenching" - John Courtenay Grimwood, SFX (June 2008)
"There comes a time when you know, during your reading of a book, that it is going to have a profound effect on you, in terms of its engaging writing and also the message it delivers... Slights by Kaaron Warren can be added to this list." - Mark Deniz, Dark Fiction Review
"It’s a creepy kind of horror novel, the kind of sublime read that gets under your skin and leads you to distraction... It’s laudably original and Warren’s acerbic writing style is equally poetic and twisted." - Paul Goat Allen, Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
"... a brilliantly written book that will not allow you to walk away from it. This is psychological horror at its very best." - Shroud Magazine Book Reviews
"Scarier than Hitchcock, Peckinpah, early Stephen King, Barker et al, and with the sort of dark un-PC humour the Coen Brother’s and John Waters would probably kill for."
- 3:AM Magazine
About the Author
Slights is Kaaron's first novel, the first of three jaw-dropping books to be published by Angry Robot. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in Year's Best Horror & Fantasy, the Poe and Haunted Legends anthologies, Fantasy magazine, Paper Cities, and many other venues in the US, Europe and Australia. Her short story "A Positive" has been made into a short film called Patience, and her first ever published short story "White Bed" was dramatised for the stage in Australia. The author lives in Australia.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Cons: unlikable protagonist, didn't feel like a horror novel
Stevie is an unreliable narrator.
She remembers her father, a cop, as a good, quiet man. Others remember him differently. He was the kind of cop who didn't like to see the guilty get away with their crimes, even when there wasn't enough evidence to convict them.
Stevie was 18 when her mother died, passenger in the car Stevie was driving. The accident gave Stevie her third near death experience. Before, she'd been too young to understand what happened. This time she realized that when you die you enter a room. A dark room. A dark room where those you've slighter want to hurt you.
The book is presented as a horror novel and the premise is quite terrifying. But in execution, it's less about horror than it is about the mystery of who Stevie's father was and what death actually holds for her. And while she runs from the first mystery, wanting to believe her father was a great man, she runs towards the second, trying to get back to her room to see if it changes.
As a protagonist she's a thoroughly unlikable character. She's rude, disrespectful and goes out of her way to anger the people in her life. And yet, her story is fascinating and she somehow remains sympathetic.
The writing is strong and the pacing good, doling out enough clues to keep you interested.
One word of caution, try not to read the synopsis on the back of the book. It contains a spoiler that makes part of the mystery a lot easier to figure out. If you want to get a sense of the book, read the first few pages.
[Those with mental health issues should be cautious in approaching this emotionally potent novel. Also, not recommended for children or adolescents.]
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And yet while Stevie's grotesque behaviour - manipulations, deceptions and sometimes vicious retaliations for offences both real and imagined - is the central narrative device, the story expands outwards in unexpected directions. During several near-death experiences, Stevie has a brush with an especially horrifying afterlife, haunted by the victims of her casual dissociative cruelty. But even this strange supernatural element ultimately becomes less disturbing than the corruption and secrets that Stevie unwittingly unearths about her past, her family and her neighbours. It all adds up to a chilling portrait of a social fabric almost as shredded and tainted as Stevie herself.
On occasions Stevie is almost a sympathetic protagonist, thanks in the most part to a well-observed narrative voice that highlights her childish wonder, an intense curiosity and her great capacity for wilful self-deception, while never letting you forget how dangerous she is. You can feel for her, sometimes, when you're not actively repulsed by her grotesque impulses.
As a novel, Slights is a bit like that too; thoughtful and reflective, layered with metaphor but also with lies and sleight of hand. The horror is grounded in disturbing revelations more than overt violence, though there are a handful of hard-to-stomach scenes. At times it defies all expectation by being sad instead of nasty - I could never quite distance myself from some of Stevie's woes. Slights is also funny - once or twice I found it laugh out loud hilarious. What I can't quite be certain of is whether that wasn't an overreaction to the relief of getting through some gruelling scene. It's an intense story, disguised as a breezy tale of surburban life, albeit one set in a suburb with a suspiciously high rate of disappearances.
I liked it a lot. For fans of psychological horror and dark fantasy, I'd call it a must-read.
On the front: "The Buddhists have many different types of heaven. I wanted to explore what it was like to have many different types of Hell." On the back: "A Wasp Factory for the misery memoir generation."
Sounds fascinating, but it doesn't come close to revealing just what you may find inside. Upon finishing the book and seeing the final cover I was actually quite glad to not have seen it beforehand. The main reason is because of how the book progresses in the creepy factor. It builds as you read, until you realize the horror was there all along.
Slights is narrated by Stephanie, with the first chapter titled `at eighteen' and from there each chapter is told from a certain age up to her late-thirties. This format worked wonderfully, not only does the reader get to follow her life as she ages, but also gets to see how her memories and past change as she matures and thinks back on things.
The entire novel is focused on Stephanie, and her family history, including parts she wasn't present for but are of much importance to her own life. Her father dying at a young age, and her mother dying from an accident which she may have caused could have been the key events that lead Stephanie to develop an unappealing fascination for death. Or maybe it's just in her blood. Either way she is determined to find out what happens when you die.
Attempting suicide has helped Stephanie, in the past, to cross into the place where life and death merge, and she has come to believe that what waits for you is all those people you slight in your life. It can be someone who holds a grudge for a slight you purposely intended or even a stranger who thinks you've done them wrong. All that matters is that these people remember you as having taking advantage, or harmed them in some way.
What was especially fascinating about this premise is that Stephanie also believes that people holding grudges end up in the Hells of the people they feel slighted by. So it only stands to reason that after death there are a million tiny Hells waiting for you. Another aspect that was completely baffling is that Stephanie has to be one of the most unattractive characters ever. Not in personal appearance, but in behavior, attitude, and the way she carries herself. And regardless of her what she believes may happen to people who insult others, she seems to go out of her way to be disrespectful and ignorant. However, that didn't stop me from feeling for this character - not sympathy exactly, and not really pity. I think it was more of a desire that she find what she was looking for, even if it meant her own destruction, it would have been a relief to see her find even a scrap of peace.
This is by far one of the most difficult books to review, because I enjoyed it so much, and there were so many layers to the story. Not only a character piece, it's also a family history, with a mystery to bring the two together. Slights is classified as a horror novel, but don't go in expecting blood, guts, and monsters. The horror of this book is the human kind, that silently creeping sickness of the psyche that can be hiding inside of any of us.
The novel drags on for far too long, with pages after pages devoted to how Stevie dislikes this person or that person for this arbitrary reason. And, honestly, I didn't care about them either because there's a disappointing lack of characterization going on. There's nothing particularly scary or unsettling going on, and even the vaguely otherworldly bits come across as flat and unengaging because the book is told from Stevie's perspective and she reacts to everything with all the emotion and personality of a rock. The first scene, describing Stevie's near-death experience and a trip to the other realm, should have been terrifying, but it was just related in far too bland and matter-of-fact a way. It was like reading a power point presentation on someone's vacation.
Warren's narrative has an odd, slippery cadence to it that means it was far too easy for my mind to wander, and after about 150 pages I realised I was still waiting for the book to "start getting good" and had to give up on it. Maybe the rest of the book dispenses live kittens and delicious candy every time you turn a page. I wouldn't know, because for me, I don't care to waste time reading a book I'm not enjoying NOW just on the promise that it might get better eventually.
Definitely not for everyone, though I had high hopes. Definitely try a sample before you commit to buying the whole thing.
To be fair, I'm evaluating this book independent of the cover. Slights is a year-by-year chronicle of a disturbed young woman. 18-year-old Stevie is haunted by the visions she had after barely surviving the car crash which killed her mother. She found herself in a dark room, surrounded by the people she'd slighted in life, clawing and tearing at her. Each chapter represents another year in her life, in which she becomes more and more obsessed with that room, going to greater and greater lengths to return to it and learn more. She also makes some gruesome discoveries in her parents' backyard which causes her to question her family history.
While it's hard to like Stevie, she's interesting and funny at times. The story lines about the room and her family history engaged me enough to keep the book going. The depth of detail about Stevie's family and personal life made her very realistic. I didn't feel the book was frightening at all, probably because the scary elements were intensely personal for the main character (and therefore, unlikely to show up under my bed at 3:30 a.m.).
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy macabre, character-driven fiction.