Posted on March 27, 2008 by Flames
Written by Simon Clark
Reviewed by Paul Leahy
The Tower is a supernatural horror story that reworks the traditional haunted house fable. In true demonic fashion Simon Clark takes a fledgling band to a secluded house in Yorkshire and proceeds to terrorize them. This is the kind of book where you don’t think of the participants as characters but a group of victims shuffling along to their demise.
The protagonist is Fisher, the bass player, who at first is only concerned with Fabian, the disruptive presence in the band. Fabian has ambitious plans and it seems nothing will put him off pushing the group towards stardom. It’s decided that the band need a quiet place to rehearse some new songs and a month long house sitting job is secured. However, The Tower has plans of it’s own and Fisher’s concerns suddenly become more tangible than just keeping the band together.
As you might expect it’s not long before the will of the house starts making things sticky for the new residents. Thereâ€™s an uncomfortable feeling from the start as the chimes from an unseen clock seep through every pore of the place. Unfortunately for the band The Tower also has a ally – a groundskeeper who makes blood sacrifices to appease his master. Here’s the chance for him to move from the usual birds and rats to something a lot more substantial.
Clark does well to create the feeling that the house is capable of anything in order to put the band and their hangers-on in danger. It’s not content with killing them, it wants to terrorize them first. The nastiest trick being to give the victims a taster of what’s to come with vivid visions of how it’s going to kill them. The seeming endless chimes give a voice to the menace and follows the characters no matter where they are, it doesn’t just signal the hour but far more traumatic events.
It’s apparent from the start that with the visions and plot twists the author is going to try and keep you guessing as long as possible who the next victim will be. The extent of the power of the house is brought into question and it’s never clear where the groundskeeper will pop up to do some gruesome business. The plot is almost of a whodunit where you know the murderer is going to strike again, you just don’t know where and when. The effect is not exactly terrifying for the reader but it will keep you reading to see who gets killed next.
Not that you really care who it is. There isn’t much time spent getting to know the characters before they start being dispatched in a systematic and efficient manner. If you’re looking for well rounded characters to fight for you’re going to be disappointed. They really are just victims from start to finish. The pleasure from a story like this is trying to guess what’s going to happen to each of them.
The source of the house’s power isn’t explained that well, there are no ghosts roaming the halls, it’s more of an entity, alive with deadly motives. We don’t know what’s put it in such a bad mood we just have to accept that the only thing on it’s mind is terror. A lot is swept under the carpet by simply explaining the current house is built around a medieval dwelling that seems to channel some sort of pagan power.
Without revealing the ending I have to say that throughout the story certain principles of what the house wants and achieves are set. The ending tends to break those in a way that makes you feel that the author just ran out of steam and wants it to end. I think I was left with a lot more questions than I started with
I like the way that chapter breaks are employed in the middle of a particularly interesting action scene. If Clark does his work well he can’t help but make the book into a page turner as you flick to the next chapter to see what happens. In combination with the shortness of the chapters it paces the story really well. This isn’t a book that is going to take you weeks to read if you let yourself get caught up in the story.
Disappointingly the book is itself a victim as the proofreading is a little shoddy. I can accept that mistakes can crop up in a manuscript but there are a couple of glaring errors in this book that really shouldn’t make it into a published novel. It’s so annoying to be reading a paragraph, following a character’s thoughts, only for him to see himself walking past a window. Not a plot device, simply the wrong name being used for the other character. There is nothing worse than an author creating a believable world only for the book to rudely eject the reader as they have to figure out what just happened.
I have not read any of his other books but I think it is fair to say that Simon Clark has more in his locker than he offered here. I’m left with the overall impression that there is a talented horror writer roaming the rooms of this haunted house. The Tower is worth reading, probably not to be put at the top of your horror wish list, but it certainly warrants a look if you want some quick and easy entertainment.