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Hell House (Classics Revisited Ser) Hardcover – August, 1996
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From the Publisher
"Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way the mountains loom over the foothills." --Stephen King --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
Florence Tanner is a psychic. Benjamin Fischer is also psychic and was a member of an ill fated group that went into Hell House thirty years previously. He was the only member of the group to escape alive and sane. They join Lionel Barrett and his wife Edith and enter Hell House.
As the assigned leader, Lionel Barrett is determined to be scientific. He makes no effort to hide his belief that psychics are at best deluded flakes. He is arrogant, pompous, condescending and overbearing. The only opinions that carry any weight are his own. Even with concrete evidence that there is something weird going on, he accuses Florence of somehow creating all this in her head.
Edith is a serious weak link throughout most of the book. Treated with condescension, especially by her husband, she is described several times as being a child or little girl- always wishing she could understand all this complicated stuff. She is so ignorant that she drinks brandy that has been in a cupboard for who knows how many decades.
Benjamin is a non entity for most of the story. He is a brooding man, in it for the money, telling everyone over and over that they are going to die if they stay.
The writing in many places is... not good. For instance;
"He breathed in deeply, inspiring further cognizance into his mind."
"A rage of bewilderment clamped his muscles suddenly."
"Then a radiant smile pulled back her lips..."
and "it seemed as though a burst of cognizance exploded through her."
There were many paragraphs, mostly of descriptions of the house, that were copied word for word in different places of the book.
As other reviewers have pointed out, the author loved the word hissing and used it many many times throughout the story. Cold, hot, pain, surprise, anger, fear and more are hissed.
Then there is sex. There is a cringe inducing strip search of Florence by Edith. Some "damned lesbian" comments and scenes. Several times Edith tries to tempt someone, anyone, into having sex but it's a no go. In this book it's always the men who fend off wanton women. Perhaps the sex scenes were designed to titillate or lead to higher sales. Whatever the reason, they were badly done and unbelievable.
I have read some of the author's earlier work and enjoyed it, but this is isn't even close to the quality of those stories.
The setup is an interesting one. Four people paid to prove the existence of life after death in a haunted house. The descriptions of the house and the main "villian" got my attention.
But the story could not live up to the good premise. The characters repeatedly make stupid decisions, like splitting up constantly. Allowing them to be attacked while alone over and over again. One character is destroyed one attack at a time while the other characters...wander around doing nothing most of the time. They are all terrified of the house yet make one stupid decision after another. It makes it really hard to respect the characters and hurts the plot as you never believe these people will be able to confront the evil of Hell House.
Everything repeats this rhythm until the ending...which tries to tie things up with a twist that is entirely disappointing. The final confrontation with the "villian" is anti-climactic.
I can say I was interested enough to finish the book but I would never read it again. I'll either put it on the shelf or donate it to my local library.
Oh, one last thing. The dialogue is really bland and boring. I'm not sure there was one phrase in the whole book that is worth remembering. All the characters spoke using short sentences and simple words. The writing is probably at the 4th grade level. Though with all the sex and gore I'd never let a kid near this book.
book against which I compare all other haunts. "Hell House" just didn't do it for me. I didn't object to the language or the sex or the violence---these all have a place in this type of book---but truthfully, I also didn't object to ANYthing nasty that happened to the characters in this book because I just
didn't care about them at all. When I found myself cheering for the bad guys to win, I knew that this was not the book for me.