Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Birthing House: A Horror Novel That’s Horror Is Stillborn

A Review By: Amelia

I love horror stories, they’re one of my favourite genres to read, and I always browse the shelves of thrift stores for any good horror pieces. The Birthing House was one such book that caught my eye and even had a rave review on the inside cover that compared it to Stephen King’s The Shining. For two bucks I thought it was a steal. Unfortunately it turns out that two bucks and the several hours I spent reading it, were completely and utterly wasted.

When Conrad Harrison impulse buys a big, old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn’t share his enthusiasm and Conrad is left to set up their new home as she ties up loose ends in LA. But the house isn’t what it seems and Conrad soon hears the wailing of a phantom baby and sees a woman who looks exactly like Jo but isn’t. When he becomes obsessed with the pregnant girl next door, who claims to be a victim of the evil of the house, Conrad’s life begins to unravel and leads him to a nightmarish conclusion.

Sounds pretty good, right? Creepy, original, and weird–maybe just a touch disturbing? Well prepare to be as disappointed as I was. As far as debut novels go, this one should NOT have gotten the author, Christopher Ransom, a book deal.

The main characters of the piece is Conrad Harrison and his wife Jo and boy are these two just a pair of hot messes. Ransom didn’t develop his main characters at all. Or rather, he did, but he did it poorly! Conrad is as shallow as a puddle and about half as interesting and Jo–what a bitch!–and not even in a ‘that’s her character way’ just in a ‘she’s written so poorly and her character is incomprehensible’ way! Nadia, the pregnant next door neighbour, is the only semi-likeable character and that’s only because she’s a mostly vapid teenage girl character and Ransom has apparently seen enough of those over the years to write one himself! There’s also an old girlfriend named Holly that appears in several long-winded and rather pointless flashback chapters but she’s just as hollow as the other characters. If anything, Holly is less a fleshed-out character and more just a fictional teenage fantasy of a fictional man.

I don’t even know where to begin with the themes of this piece. At first, Ransom leads us to believe that the house is haunted, but then it’s not and the characters are simply unravelling because of extenuating circumstances. Then, lo and behold, by the last fifty pages the house is haunted again. What are we, as the readers, supposed to make of that? What does it say about the characters? About the plot development? Nothing good, that much I can tell you!

The location of this disastrous novel is set pretty much exclusively in the creepy old house that Conrad buys. The whole mystery that the book is based on is tied-up completely in the house, but Ransom’s incohesive prose leaves almost all the mysteries of the birthing house unanswered.

The Birthing House is awful. It’s as simple as that. It’s just awful. It’s a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The narrator’s voice is sloppy, the prose is ugly and clunky, the characters unappealing, the plot full of holes, the dialogue pure drivel, there are gross and useless sex scenes, superfluous swearing (and I, myself, swear gratuitously so for me to say that means a lot), the mysteries are left unsolved, the horror unutilized–need I go on? There is not one good aspect of this book and I must say, my favourite thing about it, was finishing it and throwing it away!

My final thoughts on The Birthing House are don’t read it. Seriously, just don’t bother. In my opinion, this book should not have been birthed. This is a novel that Christopher Ransom’s editor should have had aborted.

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