Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson - R.I.P. VII

(Another R.I.P VII book.)

I read I Am Legend about a year ago and loved it, which makes me wonder why I waited so long before reading another one of Matheson's books. A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson is a horror novel and is a great book. I haven't seen the Kevin Bacon movie, but I've heard the book isn't as obviously freaky as the movie. It's creepy, though, and something I would recommend to a first-time horror reader.

Summary (from here): Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he's hearing the private thoughts of the people around him - and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom's existence becomes a waking nightmare, greater jolts are in store when he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave!

My Thoughts: You know how so many people say that they wouldn't believe in ghosts until someone proved they exist. Or until they saw one themselves. If I did see, sense and feel an actual translucent ghost someday, I will be shocked, of course, initially. But if I see it again or more closely, if I'm more prepared the next time, I might even believe it exists. We trust our basic senses too much. It is quite believable, that my first thought on witnessing something seemingly paranormal would be to wonder if it exists, rather than wondering if I've lost my mind. After a while it would just stop freaking out my conscious self. When our narrator sees what seems to be a ghost, he doesn't spend too much time convincing himself it's a hallucination. He just knows. I loved that reaction, you hardly ever get to read it, but it seemed to me the most convincing reaction to a supernatural experience. He doesn't readily question his sanity, instead he decides he has stumbled across the proof for the afterlife. He consciously decides to find ways to avoid encountering this ghost, he wonders and thinks about it, he actively tries to find out more about it. The only time the apparition truly haunts him is at night, in his dreams. 

I tried to joke but it was a mistake. "What's the matter," I said, "do you have something to hide? Maybe a-"

"Everyone has something to hide!" she burst out. "And if they couldn't hide it, the world would be in a lot worse mess than it is."

The telepathy was just as wonderfully dealt with. I used to think that Stephen King describes what goes on in people's heads most convincingly, but reading this book makes me wonder if he overdoes it. The way his wife reacts when Tom begins to recognize her thoughts is perfectly believable, and more importantly, so is the way Tom begins to react to the people around him. What seemed like a power at first begins to be a burden. He becomes a victim of people's deepest, darkest secrets: just imagine how that would be like! What I loved the most is that even knowing people's emotions doesn't give him what he needs to uncover the truth. The more I thought about it, the more correct it seemed: Tom knew what everyone felt, but not what they intended to do with it. It is very hard to figure out, don't you think, which emotion binds with which action. You can't know someone's every move by knowing their feelings, it is so much more complicated than that! And the author has managed to make it work perfectly realistically in this book.

The focus is more on the people than on the scenery or the atmosphere. I could relate quite easily to Tom, the narrator, which made the book even more enjoyable. The characters may seem stereotypical at times, but I feel, that sometimes cliches do work. As they say, they are cliches for a reason. The book feels spooky when the narrator himself is spooked, there are no monochromatic images in the mirror, creaking doors and scratching sounds on windows. It is not the classic horror tale, in that it is not too gory or gruesome and it is not overly descriptive. But it has its moments, subtle but effective: times when you feel absolutely terrified, wondering what's about to happen. The suspense builds up beautifully and the mystery draws you in well. If you like thrillers, mysteries and subtle horror, this is the book for you.

6 comments:

Michelle Shannon said...

I've seen I Am Legend but haven't read the book. You definitely piqued my interest with your review here. I hadn't heard of Stir of Echoes but your description about the telepathy sounds so interesting. I want to see just how scary it is!

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

You should read the I Am Legend book too! A Stir of Echoes isn't scary in the conventional sense, but it is, like you said, interesting! Thanks for stopping by here :)

Lynn said...

I loved I am Legend - the film is okay but for me it completely misses the point and changes the meaning of the title. It was my first Matheson novel and I noticed that he has written a few titles I've seen in movie format. Stir of Echoes is one of these and I would be interested to read the book to see how the film compares.
Good review.
Thanks
Lynn :D

Chay said...

I had no idea Stir of Echoes was based on a book; I love that movie, saw it several times though it has been a while. I haven't read any Matheson before, so I think I'll start with this one. (The RIP review site is making by TBR pile quite huge).

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

I know, the book was perfect and the film definitely less than. I haven't seen the movie of A Stir Of Echoes, but I've heard it's much obviously scarier than the book. You should still try it, though :)

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

I know, mine too! I keep noting to myself that even I'll read this book for RIP and that, too and I have no idea when I'm going to get around to actually reading them.
If you already like the movie, I don't know if you'd like the book too, but it is totally worth the try. Glad you stopped by :)

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