Slights (Angry Robot)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2012
I'll start with this: for a book narrated from the serial killer's point of view, the creepiness factor of Slights still manages to find its way far over the top. The unsettling starts as a niggle, like an ache mildly growling somewhere behind your eyes; page by page the suspense-tease grows into a full-strength migraine. What's interesting is that the nature of narrator Stevie (aka Stephanie Searle) is never in question: she's a lying, self-absorbed sociopath dedicated to casting herself in the best possible light, and her descent into serial murder and self-harm are unsurprising.

And yet while Stevie's grotesque behaviour - manipulations, deceptions and sometimes vicious retaliations for offences both real and imagined - is the central narrative device, the story expands outwards in unexpected directions. During several near-death experiences, Stevie has a brush with an especially horrifying afterlife, haunted by the victims of her casual dissociative cruelty. But even this strange supernatural element ultimately becomes less disturbing than the corruption and secrets that Stevie unwittingly unearths about her past, her family and her neighbours. It all adds up to a chilling portrait of a social fabric almost as shredded and tainted as Stevie herself.

On occasions Stevie is almost a sympathetic protagonist, thanks in the most part to a well-observed narrative voice that highlights her childish wonder, an intense curiosity and her great capacity for wilful self-deception, while never letting you forget how dangerous she is. You can feel for her, sometimes, when you're not actively repulsed by her grotesque impulses.

As a novel, Slights is a bit like that too; thoughtful and reflective, layered with metaphor but also with lies and sleight of hand. The horror is grounded in disturbing revelations more than overt violence, though there are a handful of hard-to-stomach scenes. At times it defies all expectation by being sad instead of nasty - I could never quite distance myself from some of Stevie's woes. Slights is also funny - once or twice I found it laugh out loud hilarious. What I can't quite be certain of is whether that wasn't an overreaction to the relief of getting through some gruelling scene. It's an intense story, disguised as a breezy tale of surburban life, albeit one set in a suburb with a suspiciously high rate of disappearances.

I liked it a lot. For fans of psychological horror and dark fantasy, I'd call it a must-read.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2009
First things first, the copy of Slights that I read did not have that totally creepy cover you see above, mine was a simple black and red, with the title, author and these two statements:

On the front: "The Buddhists have many different types of heaven. I wanted to explore what it was like to have many different types of Hell." On the back: "A Wasp Factory for the misery memoir generation."

Sounds fascinating, but it doesn't come close to revealing just what you may find inside. Upon finishing the book and seeing the final cover I was actually quite glad to not have seen it beforehand. The main reason is because of how the book progresses in the creepy factor. It builds as you read, until you realize the horror was there all along.

Slights is narrated by Stephanie, with the first chapter titled `at eighteen' and from there each chapter is told from a certain age up to her late-thirties. This format worked wonderfully, not only does the reader get to follow her life as she ages, but also gets to see how her memories and past change as she matures and thinks back on things.

The entire novel is focused on Stephanie, and her family history, including parts she wasn't present for but are of much importance to her own life. Her father dying at a young age, and her mother dying from an accident which she may have caused could have been the key events that lead Stephanie to develop an unappealing fascination for death. Or maybe it's just in her blood. Either way she is determined to find out what happens when you die.

Attempting suicide has helped Stephanie, in the past, to cross into the place where life and death merge, and she has come to believe that what waits for you is all those people you slight in your life. It can be someone who holds a grudge for a slight you purposely intended or even a stranger who thinks you've done them wrong. All that matters is that these people remember you as having taking advantage, or harmed them in some way.

What was especially fascinating about this premise is that Stephanie also believes that people holding grudges end up in the Hells of the people they feel slighted by. So it only stands to reason that after death there are a million tiny Hells waiting for you. Another aspect that was completely baffling is that Stephanie has to be one of the most unattractive characters ever. Not in personal appearance, but in behavior, attitude, and the way she carries herself. And regardless of her what she believes may happen to people who insult others, she seems to go out of her way to be disrespectful and ignorant. However, that didn't stop me from feeling for this character - not sympathy exactly, and not really pity. I think it was more of a desire that she find what she was looking for, even if it meant her own destruction, it would have been a relief to see her find even a scrap of peace.

This is by far one of the most difficult books to review, because I enjoyed it so much, and there were so many layers to the story. Not only a character piece, it's also a family history, with a mystery to bring the two together. Slights is classified as a horror novel, but don't go in expecting blood, guts, and monsters. The horror of this book is the human kind, that silently creeping sickness of the psyche that can be hiding inside of any of us.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2011
While Slights started off interesting, I found that it took far too long to get anywhere, and by the time it did, I was already pretty disenchanted with a protagonist who is, to be frank, pretty all-around repulsive. You can have a book with a killer for a "hero", but the thing to remember is that to do so, you need to make him or her likable or relatable to a certain degree, and Stevie is neither. Not only that, she fails to be interesting or entertaining.

The novel drags on for far too long, with pages after pages devoted to how Stevie dislikes this person or that person for this arbitrary reason. And, honestly, I didn't care about them either because there's a disappointing lack of characterization going on. There's nothing particularly scary or unsettling going on, and even the vaguely otherworldly bits come across as flat and unengaging because the book is told from Stevie's perspective and she reacts to everything with all the emotion and personality of a rock. The first scene, describing Stevie's near-death experience and a trip to the other realm, should have been terrifying, but it was just related in far too bland and matter-of-fact a way. It was like reading a power point presentation on someone's vacation.

Warren's narrative has an odd, slippery cadence to it that means it was far too easy for my mind to wander, and after about 150 pages I realised I was still waiting for the book to "start getting good" and had to give up on it. Maybe the rest of the book dispenses live kittens and delicious candy every time you turn a page. I wouldn't know, because for me, I don't care to waste time reading a book I'm not enjoying NOW just on the promise that it might get better eventually.

Definitely not for everyone, though I had high hopes. Definitely try a sample before you commit to buying the whole thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2013
The main problem with this book are the blurb/synopsis on back covers. The blurb should be a teaser, not spoil the plot of the novel. As a result, I expected the novel to start off with Stevie as a serial killer and visiting the room. Not so--that stuff doesn't happen until mid-story, and are, in fact, plot developments. I would've enjoyed the story more had I not known she was going to become a killer and been surprised by the plot twist. Also, it sets the reader up for a slasher novel, which this isn't. It's a portrait of a serial killer.

To be fair, I'm evaluating this book independent of the cover. Slights is a year-by-year chronicle of a disturbed young woman. 18-year-old Stevie is haunted by the visions she had after barely surviving the car crash which killed her mother. She found herself in a dark room, surrounded by the people she'd slighted in life, clawing and tearing at her. Each chapter represents another year in her life, in which she becomes more and more obsessed with that room, going to greater and greater lengths to return to it and learn more. She also makes some gruesome discoveries in her parents' backyard which causes her to question her family history.

While it's hard to like Stevie, she's interesting and funny at times. The story lines about the room and her family history engaged me enough to keep the book going. The depth of detail about Stevie's family and personal life made her very realistic. I didn't feel the book was frightening at all, probably because the scary elements were intensely personal for the main character (and therefore, unlikely to show up under my bed at 3:30 a.m.).

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy macabre, character-driven fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2012
Reading the other reviews here it seems they were written by people who like books that go straight for the jugular from the first page and keep a fast pace throughout the book. Slights is not like that, it starts off slow and builds up the mystery and wierdness and gets progressivly darker as you read on. The main character is a woman named Stevie who had a wierd childhood raised by a father who had secrets in a house her family have owned for generations built on land that may have been significant to the aborigines before white settlement. Her father dies when she is young, her mother dies in a car crash that Stevie herself was partly responsible for and Stevie has several near death experiances where she comes to in a room full of people who hate her. You need to be patient with this book and let it build up but when it does it is very rewarding. I would recommend it to anyone who loves good psychological horror and is prepared to put in a little effort and patience in their reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2011
I was actually a little bit disappointed when I started the paperback Angry Robot printing of Slights, because the back cover description is obviously wrong. Reversed.)

But I found the first person narrative of Steve extremely touching, especially as her years increase and she settles into lonely adulthood as a psychopathic witch. She only becomes more unlikeable, yet still I was rooting for her to somehow find happiness.

Slights isn't scary, though the descriptions of Steve's visits to her dark room in the afterlife are chilling. This novel is more of a character study. By the time I finished the book I felt like I really knew poor Steve.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 13, 2011
This is a did not finish (DNF) book and while I got over well over 100 pages in, I'm still not sure I could explain what was happening. Here is what I think is happening: Stevie had a near death experience where she saw people in a room. She had a weird childhood that has made her a weird adult. Her father died and her mother had a rotating round of boyfriends. After her mother passes away, she inherits the home she grew up in. When she starts digging up the backyard and finding bones she just piles them up. I don't think I can figure out what else was happening in this book.

So why didn't I finish it? Well, to be upfront, the writing from the start didn't thrill me. I don't think it was bad I just didn't find it engaging. The other problems come from the fact that I didn't feel the book was going anywhere. I struggled just to find a storyline within the 100+ pages that I read. I found it didn't have a linear storyline, which in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. What I didn't like is that what little pieces you did get, I didn't find as coherent pieces. It made reading this frustrating.

I didn't like the main character, Stevie. She didn't make any sense to me, which may have been what the author was shooting for me. I didn't want to know anything more about her. I found in a bit deranged and obsessed with death. To say the least I couldn't connect with this Stevie at all.

I tried to be interested in this book and at some points I could read 20 or more pages at a time but the moment I put this book down, I had no interest picking it back up. This book had potential and clearly someone else saw something awesome in this book because it got published. I just didn't see that story and so couldn't finish this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2011
Kaaron Warren's "Slights" has one of the most interesting premises I've come across. Unfortunately, the execution simply does not do the concept justice.

Stephanie "Stevie" Searle is the main character in this memoir-style recounting of a loose-leafed killer. I say "main character" as opposed to "protagonist" because from the start to the finish of the book the audience feels absolutely no affinity or like for Stevie. Of all the literary anti-heroes I've come across, none has been more repulsive, more unsympathetic, or more irredeemably unlikeable than Stevie Searle. Never has a main character been so unpalatable.

The pacing is also a huge detraction. It took literally half the book before the plot even began to develop intelligently. The first quarter is tedious and on several occasions I was tempted to simply stop reading, for lack of any plot progress.

Finally, for a horror book the horror is in quite a short supply. I suppose this was meant to be psychological horror, but what you get is something more akin to general fiction. I'd even go as far as to say that "Slights" could even be filed as a thriller than a work of horror (although to be frank this is being very kind). Perhaps the reader is too distanced from Stevie to appreciate the horror in what she sees, or perhaps descriptions which are supposed to be frightening are just written very blandly. Whatever the case, there is nothing the least bit frightening about this book.

If you have a lot of time and a high tolerance for tedium, then "Slights" is definitely worth a shot. Otherwise, I'd recommend against this book. The pacing is just too slow and the main character too viscerally unlikeable to connect with.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2011
I'm surprised I managed to get through this book. It's slowly paced and tedious, and the characters are all bland. I actually spent the whole book WISHING something horrible would happen to the main character, she was that unlikeable. While the prose was actually very good, the book rambled and didn't seem to have a clear direction until after the middle, and the ending was very dissatisfying. There are some really elegant bits of writing in the book, but as a whole it is slow, boring, and decidedly NOT scary at all. I would not recommend this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
Saying that I "liked" the book would make me uncomfortable because it is seriously twisted and dark, but I will certainly say i couldn't put it down. It is written from the perspective of Stevie, the main character, and the author does a great job of almost making you empathize with Stevie. I really liked the style of the prose. Very short objective type sentences if that makes sense. It was easy to read and very interesting but not for the weak of heart or stomach, because it is certainly gory in detail and demented in plot.
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