The Christmas Spirits by Whitley Strieber
Published as an e-book by Coronet/ Hodder and Stoughton, December 2011
Review by Mark Yon
With a title, The Christmas Spirits, and a by-line ‘They know when you’ve been bad….’ I suddenly realise that it must be that time of year.
Here’s a brief novella that’s A Christmas Carol revisited but given a topical update and a slightly more SF slant for good measure.
George Moore is a futures trader who runs the hard-ass firm of Moore Futures. At a time of good will, George has very little. To him, Christmas is an irrelevance that gets in the way of making money 24 hours a day, and George is an exemplary worker. This also applies to them around him. His assistant Megan is refused permission to go home early on Christmas Eve, even though she has Charlie, her autistic son to look after. However George is due a surprise this Christmas. When George gets home, he finds his late employer Bill Hill, who warns him of three visitors due that night to show George Christmases past, present and possible future, and that his life needs to change and not make the mistake deceased Bill made in his lifetime…
You might have heard of this one, before, right?
This time around it’s refreshingly contemporary (who doesn’t dislike someone apparently responsible for the financial crisis?), not too deep, not too heavy with the morals and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Anyone who’s read Dickens, seen the film versions or seen Scrooged knows what to expect here, and part of the fun is spotting the similarities and differences between this and the original.
As a contemporary alternative to A Christmas Carol it’s quite apt for this time of year. Whitley, author of The Wolfen, The Hunger and Communion, can clearly write and knows when to put on the chills as well as balance it with a degree of knowing humour. There’s theft, murder, potential gang fighting and drug abuse mentioned here, to bring the narrative into the 21st century, though the general morals are as relevant as they were in Dickens’s time, which may explain the universal appeal of the tale. It is, perhaps, more creepy than Dickens today, or even Pratchett’s Hogswatch, but the humour here does balance it a little. Perhaps most important of all, there is that sense of redemption at the end, when wrongs are righted and previous discretions corrected that makes the tale still one worth telling.
Might be a good one to download for people getting their first ebook for Christmas. It would make a good read Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.
Ho ho ho, etc.
Mark Yon, November 2011