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Adams Fall Hardcover – October 9, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Harvard's Adams House has a checkered past--ghosts in the attic, shadowy tunnels under the basement, and a history of student suicides and murders. The present isn't much sunnier, especially for the nameless protagonist, a senior plagued by memories of his freshman roommate's death and haunted by a specter who's got a few scores to settle before he quits this earthly realm for good. Author Sean Desmond, a Harvard graduate, takes us deep inside the drug and spirit-ridden head of his main character, who's got girlfriend troubles as well as a thesis to finish, a guilty secret to hide, and a problem or two with reality. It doesn't endear us to this overprivileged twit, but it adds to the Gothic atmosphere, which is laid on with a heavy hand. The ghost from the past is a much more interesting figure. He's a vindictive playboy with charm that doesn't quite equal his prescience in choosing a target whose descent into madness--and maybe murder--is horrifyingly depicted. In this, his debut novel, Desmond shows signs of an emerging talent. Unfortunately it's not fully realized in this somewhat muddled, though exceptionally creepy, tale. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Restless ghosts roam the august halls of Harvard in this debut psychothriller, a younger sibling to The Shining. In his senior year at Harvard, the unnamed narrator's life is falling apart. Having faithfully toiled in his classes for three years with good results, he is now burnt out as he goes through the motions of composing his senior thesis, and completes his application for study abroad with all the animation of a zombie. He is bored with his girlfriend, Rosie, and haunted by memories of her ex, Billy, the narrator's freshman roommate and former best friend, who hanged himself in their room. The protagonist copes by frantic boozing, drug taking and clandestine sex with his glamorous classmate, Maeve. But he begins to suffer headaches and spells of d j vu while restlessly pacing the dorm's old underground tunnels and its roof. He can't figure out why his grades slip perilously and his health declines, until he meets a spectral visitor from the past who appears to be enjoying himself at the narrator's expense and hints at sexual secrets. Things go terribly wrong on Halloween, when the narrator, in a mushroom-induced paranoia, wakes up with a fearsome image of Maeve dead in the underground tunnels. To his horror, he finds that the ghost, a former Adams resident, is merrily reconstructing two deadly scenes from the past, using the narrator and his circle as stand-ins. Newcomer Desmond shows a flair for character development and wry observations about Ivy League life. Even if his plotting is unoriginal and the dialogue a bit flat, this is an entertaining debut and a suitable Halloween release. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (October 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031226254X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312262549
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,813,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Warning: this book will cause insomnia! I reached a point while reading this novel where I was terrified to continue reading, but I was equally terrified to close the book and turn off the light. (I opted to keep reading, and boy am I glad to be 3,000 miles away from Harvard's blood-soaked bricks.) My favorite scene was set on Halloween night in the steam tunnels beneath the library - don't expect to fall asleep after reading that chapter.
Sean Desmond is a master of terror and I am certain that his horrifying portrait of Adams House circa 1994 will haunt me for years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
After finishing the intriguing novel called "Adams Fall" by Sean Desmond, I was blown away and a bit freaked out. I couldn't put it down, and was fascinated with the story. Several times while reading the book I actually got the chills, and was afraid to be by myself. It is packed with paragraphs that are hilarious and wonderfully descriptive. I really was drawn into the main character's perspective of the college, and it was very easy to identify with him. It is a novel that is cloaked in secrecy, yet it reveals a powerful insight into the depths of the dark side of the human experience. After reading "Adams Fall," the first thing I did was flip back to the first page to start the ride all over again.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been to Boston twice in my lifetime and during my time there, I have visited Harvard on more than a couple of occassions. The atmosphere is dark, grim and not the oh so cheerful college-style freedom you come to get acquainted with when visiting any other university in any other part of the world. I always thought that was because of the Harvard demeanour and the fact that going to one of world's most respected school kind of does that to you. This book takes that personally contrived notion, gulps it up, spits it back out and forms a whole different and darker image of the place.
We start off with the length, which is very right for this book in more than a different count. First being that Sean Desmond is a first time author where mistakes could be masked by making things up to the point and another is the fact that a story like this one is greatly told in a hit and run fashion. Desmond is successful enough to take us into a journey deep in the mind of the narrator, who through the novel is nameless. His thoughts, desires and fall from grace is well depicted throughout. The story moves more like a fall from grace style of writing and holds true to many biblical mythos and figures.
Is it scary? I have read scarier books, but this book holds a suspense factor of 9 on a 10 scale. You just want to know what might happen. The only thing that the book fails to answer is why things are happening. The book will leave you wanting more, but I won't necessary think it would make an insomniac out of you.
For a first time author, Desmond is good and his lacking are only apparent when it comes to naming places in the Boston area in great detail with names and such.
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Format: Hardcover
Desmond's "horror" novel shares themes and motifs with Hamlet - fitting, seeing as our nameless narrator is doing his thesis on Shakespeare's middle plays, including Hamlet. We have drownings, a ghost, and a protagonist who slowly decends into madness. It is a novel that illustrates just how many uncertainties our lives are built upon.
For me, a key point to understanding the story comes when the narrator's thesis advisor agitates him by stating that the ghost in Hamlet doesn't really exist. So does the ghost really exist in this story? Or is he a figment of the narrator's "overstimulated by all the pressures of The College" brain?
The problem with this novel is that ultimately, you don't really feel like trying to answer those questions. The tale just doesn't feel authentic overall, although occasionally Desmond hits the bullseye with his observations of college life - case in point: "It was like going to a party, having a few beers, and cresting on that first wave of mild drunkeness....Then you go to the bathroom and catch yourself in the mirror....You don't even recognize yourself on the outside, never mind all the thoughtless reasons that lurk behind the eyes."
Side note: This novel has been recently made into a movie called "Abandon". As Katie Holmes plays the main charater, I have to assume it is a very loose adaptation.
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Format: Hardcover
I love reading books in which you can lose yourself. The characters become so real you feel you know them. The story so intriguing - you can't stop reading because the answers to your questions are just a few more pages away. "Adams Fall" is one of those books. Author Sean Desmond creates a world that is macabre and magnetic. The story is smart and suspenseful. It is a pleasure to read.
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By A Customer on February 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Desmond shows promise as a writer, however if you are looking for a psychological thriller or just a plain scary story, this isn't the one for you. While most of the story is worth reading, it has the feel that he used a thesaurus to make his book "smarter." It is a fast read, only taking a few hours to complete as it lacks the depth and ability to captivate the reader. The books comes off as the typical first book. It is worth reading and has many good points to it. Once you hit chapter 3 the book becomes a little more enjoyable and a bit lass pretentious, but still lacks the pizazz of more skilled writers.
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