Monday, February 04, 2008

The Infinite, by Douglas Clegg

(pb; 2001)

From the back cover:

"Harrow is haunted, they say. The mansion is a place of tragedy and nightmares, evil and insanity. First, it was a madman's fortress; then it became a school. Now it lies empty. An obsessed woman named Ivy Martin wants to bring the house back to life. And Jack Fleetwood, a ghost hunter, wants to find out what lurks within Harrow. Together they assemble the people who they believe can pierce the mansion's shadows.

"A group of strangers, with varying motives and abilities, gathers at the house called Harrow in the Hudson Valley to reach another world that exists within the house... A world of wonders... A world of desires... A world of nightmares."


This is best read as a sometimes-clever, by-the-numbers homage to other classic horror/haunted house novels, namely: Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home, Shirley Jackon's The Haunting of Hill House, and Richard Matheson's Hell House.

Clegg is a competent writer, but The Infinite lacks the necessary haunted-house tension. Clegg lays the multi-layered creepiness on thick -- problem is, most readers have read this story before, created by more effective writers.

The characters are semi-stock: Chet Dillinger, an angry nineteen-year old hick telemetrist, who can move things with his mind; Calista Nybird, a friendly urban psychometrist in her late twenties ("she could hold an object associated with... murder... and if the situation was right, find out something about the murderer or the victim..."); Frost Crane, a forty-five year old bestselling author who channels otherworldly "Voices," most of whom are like Crane himself -- seething, circumstantially-impotent and violent; Jack Fleetwood, an academic type who's in love with the going-mad (and rich) Ivy Martin, who owns the Harrow mansion; and Miranda Fleetwood, Jack's sarcastic sixteen-year old daughter, who lacks psychic abilities (and nevertheless senses the mansion's ethereal-dread).

Near the end, there are some well-rendered splatter-punkish scenes of supernatural mayhem, but even they can't make this anything more than it is: a disposable spookhouse beach read.

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