book-reviews

Haunted

by Chuck Palahniuk

Rating: ★★

Haunted takes the form of a narrative anthology. A loose meta-plot gathers together some odd characters and cuts them off from the world, with the ostensible aim of allowing them to create some great stories -- mimicking the events at Villa Diodati where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and Polidori wrote The Vampyre when they were trapped inside by poor weather. The characters sit around swapping tales, all the while constructing a story where they are rescued from the house by some outside agents, and trying to make their suffering greatest so that they get the most fame.

I was intrigued by Haunted because I heard a rumour that it had some of the most shocking of tales. The opening story, Guts is meant to have made people faint. In my opinion, none of that is held up in the collection. The various tales read like a poor creepypasta thread, half a sort of immature attempt at shock horror which leaves no lingering worry, half of them not even recognisable as horror. Guts is probably the best of the first kind, perhaps because it carries elements of reality the others lack, but even it merits nothing more than an 'aww, man' response. People who feel faint or try to run away must have led rather sheltered lives.

The plot itself is too weak -- the characters are all detestable, so there is nobody you should care about being imperilled, and there are too many of them for you to even reliably distinguish the less-mentioned characters. There are some gruesome events in the main plot, and I admit that the death of the cat got a rise out of me, but for the most part it simply passes over you. Not helping any of the above is that every story is prefaced with a pretentious sequence outlining the character telling it, a formulaic little snippet placing them on a stage and playing a bit of film. These were so boring that I ended up skimming rather than reading them.

A couple of gruesome elements does not make for a terrifying collection, and Haunted pretty much entirely fails at being such. Not worth your interest unless you're a gore fetishist or something.