Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Slights by Kaaron Warren is a disturbing book. This should not come as a surprise to people familiar with the author’s other work (or anyone who read the quote from Russell Kirkpatrick on the cover).

Stevie (short for Stephanie because her parents were expecting a boy) is a psychopath in the literal sense of the word: she lacks empathy, consideration, is obsessive and fairly self-centred. She is not a sympathetic character, but she is fascinating.

After a car accident which kills her mother and puts her in hospital, she has a near-death experience. Instead of seeing a white light or a tunnel or something like that, she finds herself in a room filled with all the people who she’s slighted at some point in the past. Hence the title and hence the cover. (Speaking of the cover, how creepy do the rightmost dude’s eyes look?) And her slighted people do unpleasant things do her.

Beyond that, it’s a difficult book to explain. It doesn’t exactly have a plot, it’s more an examination of Steve’s life, told in first person, including her learning new things about her past as she gets older. Her life isn’t particularly pleasant. I found the first third or so of the book quite confronting and it squicked me out a bit. I had to take breaks from reading it, although that became less necessary as it progressed (or I became desensitised). I wouldn’t suggest this book to anyone with any sort of conventional triggers (particularly sexual ones). Fair warning.

As the book progressed, I felt it became less about horrible things happening to people (sometimes Steve, sometimes others around her) and more about the things happening in Steve’s head. And towards the very end, aspects of her family history that she wasn’t necessarily aware of when they were happening in her youth.

I knew why the people were in the room and who they were; each and every one had been slighted by me, and each slight, by me or anybody else, snapped up a bit of their soul and sent it to the dark room of some unknowing person. Or to my dark room.

The progression of her understanding of the room she goes to when she has near-death experiences (yes, they’re plural, the story would have much less impact if they weren’t) is interesting. I felt it was the kind of book that might be studied in a high school English class, if it was a bit more age-appropriate. I certainly found it more meaningful than some of the novels by Tim Winton I was forced to read.

In case you didn’t pick it up, Slights is definitely a horror novel. Don’t read it if you don’t like icky things or being inside the minds of disturbing people. On the other hand, if you like being disturbed and enjoy a dark psychological read, then this is a good book to pick up.

4 / 5 stars

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