A coworker recently gave me a book by Simon Clark called The Tower. A friend of hers, visiting from England, gave her several books he had apparently blasted through during his lengthy flight to the states. Clark had been on my radar for some time. A British Fantasy Award Winner and a finalist for the coveted Bram Stoker Award (Best First Novel), he has garnished acclaim from fans and authors in the horror community.
A recent change of management has led a young rock band to the dark walls of what is affectionately known as The Tower, an ancient and large dwelling in the middle of an English swamp. Named for the tower that looms six stories above the rest of the mansion, this house has built an impressive resume for itself: World War II bunker, event center, ritualistic killing site, nursing home (oh, I already mentioned the ritualistic killing site, didn’t I?) The supernatural qualifications of the house range from the ghost clock at its dark heart to its self-motivated and creatively violent killing sprees.
Soon, members of the band begin having nightmares, people disappear, and hell generally breaks loose in the ancient walls of the sinister Tower.
Perhaps it was my high expectation and anticipation of a good writer’s work, but I grew skeptical as I began the novel. The Tower seemed a hodgepodge of recycled images and tired ideas. A group of young musicians who are isolated beyond the reaches of their cell phones in rural England? Check. A mysterious dog that waits to be picked up from the side of a miserable road, complete with contemplative musings from the characters on the canine significance in ancient mythology? Check. Big mansion built on a cursed swamp? Check. Creepy groundskeeper? Got it.
Admittedly, my enthusiasm waned during the first few chapters of the book. Yet, like the characters within, I found myself drawn deeper and deeper into the core of the “Good Heart” of The Tower as I read on. The characters were, for the most part, likable and flawed. Clark lets his story build to a phenomenal momentum, and doesn’t stop until the final, foreboding and simultaneously hopeful “Good-bye.” The author allows his reader to imagine the events of the story without forcing lengthy expositions or simple answers upon them. Effective ambiguity is a relatively lost art in the world of horror nowadays, yet Clark wisely chooses to keep a few cards in his sleeve throughout.
The Tower boasts several chilling moments, and if you ever needed a guidebook on how to describe the sound of sinister clock chimes differently a hundred times, then Clark is your man.
Bottom line: Good read. I predict that Simon Clark will be on my reading list in the future.