The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
Published by Sphere, January 2009
Review by Mark Yon
It seems at the moment there is a resurgence – a resurrection, if you like – of horror genre books, at least in the
However, the last couple of years have shown
Credit crunch notwithstanding, Horror’s back, though to some it’s never been away.
To this context, we add an interesting debut by Christopher Ransom.
The story is initially straight-forward. Conrad Harrison is a young hotshot in
What is interesting about this book is that it’s take on horror- the knowing contemporary cultural references, and the oh-so-post-modernist slant within this version of basically an old-style haunted house story almost works. It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s sexy – but I’m not sure whether, despite all its flash and its intelligence, it’s really anything new.
The shadows cast by early Stephen King (’
Mind you, this is not a simple sex-orgy-horror novel – in actuality, it is really not that explicit in these liberating times. There is another tone here, clearly intelligent and knowing, with the engagingly fractured denouement being a delusional descent into a Psycho-like existence.
But is it scary? There’s clearly a lot of confidence on the part of the publisher with this book, and to a degree I can see why. However for many horror fans this will disappoint. Those looking for a King-like Overlook hotel will ultimately feel short-changed.
The biggest problem for me, I think, was the lack of sympathy I felt for the main character – a self-obsessed, laddish bloke, who made me wonder why anyone would want to spend time with him, let alone be his wife or lover. At times, things seemed to happen a little too conveniently and yet at other times irritatingly inconvenient. The internal logic required for good horror to work seemed to be rather too inconsistent for some readers to be satisfied.
Nevertheless there are some skilful touches here and some nice chills along the way. I am sure that Christopher will be a writer to watch in the future. I think that for readers unknowledgeable about the genre this will be a fine read. For me though, although I enjoyed reading it, it may be a case of a book whose ambition is admirable though its execution rather lacking.
Mark Yon, January/February 2009