A Stir of Echoes, by Richard Matheson

Review published on October 21, 2013.Reviewed by Sara Garland

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

Although originally published in 1958, this classic book has been re-released by Tor for a new audience following the death of Matheson in June earlier this year. Matheson is a renowned novelist and screenwriter writer of such as I am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Twilight Zone episodes, winning many awards and quoted by Stephen King as being ‘the author that influenced me most as a writer.’ Deemed a Grand Master of Horror, he is definitely an author worth seeking out if you’re not already familiar with his work.

Being quite a slim book, Matheson immediately draws you into the life of Tom Wallace, a happily married man, living in a pleasant suburban area with his pregnant wife and young son. Told in the first person he conveys how during an evening of casual entertainment, his brother-in-law hypnotises him at a neighbourhood get together, only to trigger a convoy of disturbing events.

Suddenly Tom can sense his neighbours emotions and thoughts. Some of these thoughts and desires are quite dark and disturbing. Bombarded by these, he struggles to lead a normal everyday life. His wife becomes unsettled by these events and his behaviour. Rapidly their normal, contented lives are invaded by suspicion, confusion and a background terror that pulses more intensively as the days go by. The presence of a woman at night challenges Tom’s beliefs; is she a hallucination, or an apparition or something else? Tom’s wife Anne starts to worry about the mental health of her husband and cracks in their relationship start to appear. Marred by hyper anxiety and distorted thoughts and beliefs, the potential ugly truth about those around Tom is almost more than he can cope with.

Matheson has the fluid ability to transform the congenial normal interaction of the characters, into an unsettling atmospheric thriller, with gripping tension. There are seamless changes in the pace of the story that crank up the apprehension. Arguably, there are lots of holes in the story, but these are easy to skip over with the layering of the plot and story progression. There are enough developments to keep you intrigued and the size of the book can easily make this a one stop read. It is therefore more a short story than a detailed, in-depth tale, which in itself could be perceived as a weakness, but as a swift, absorbing, easy, paranormal read, with a traditional horror feel, it’s a great book to escape from the real world for a few hours.


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