Saturday, 20 February 2010

Stir of Echoes - Richard Matheson

Well, I received this book yesterday from Amazon and I've already finished it - it's a small book, 211 pages but between reading it in the evening and this morning, it's all done!

Here is my review:


SYNOPSIS: 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 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!

REVIEW (SPOILERS): Stir of Echoes was written by the New York Times bestselling author of What Dreams May Come True, in 1958. Forty years later, it was the inspiration behind the film of the same name, starring Kevin Bacon.

This book is set in LA, and depicts the life of Tom, Anne and Richard Wallace, living a blue collar lifestyle and renting a house in a neighbourhood full of friends. At a gathering, Tom is put under hypnosis for the entertainment of the guests and everything appears normal until he goes to bed at night, which is when he begins to channel the thoughts of others, and receive precognitive dreams. He is able to foresee events such as a train wreck, Anne's mother dying, and the sex of their unborn child. Unfortunately for him, he is also channeling the mind of a young woman, Helen Driscoll, who was the previous tenant of their house, and the sister in law of their landlord.

As the story goes on, Tom begins to believe that the landlord's story of Driscoll moving east is a lie. Convinced she is in fact dead, he seeks to channel her thoughts to discover what happened to her and who was responsible. But who killed Helen Driscoll, and why?

This book was quite an easy read, written largely in American 50's prose, which I found quite interesting - the majority of the books I've read of this period were British. Matheson delivers a good level of suspense, as well as the descriptions of how Tom Wallace and his wife are feeling with his new found skill. Personally, I felt the film held more suspense and shocks, but that could be because of the transition to cinemas rather than a criticism of Matheson's writing, and after all, there were possible certain social boundaries one could and could not cross when writing a book in the 1950's.

The end is quite a twist - you are led for several chapters to believe the identity of the person who potentially killed Driscoll, and the actual revelation comes as a surprise.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to read the story behind the film, although I do feel that viewers that were gripped by the building suspense may not get the same enjoyment out of the book as the did from the film. A well written book, but possibly not one I'd hurry to read again in the future.


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