Saturday, 12 January 2008

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Mania

"You are about to embark upon a journey into the darkest recesses of the human mind, an exploration of the unknown. Travel at your peril for your safety, your sanity cannot be guaranteed. For some there may be no return."

In a prose worthy of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, so begins Mania, a book that attempts to combine Rosemary's Baby and The Shining into one confusing package.

Suzannah Mitchell is taking her daughter Rosie to dance practice, when a combination of car trouble and a serious snow storm force them to take shelter in the Donnington Country House Hotel. However, this is no ordinary hotel. Formerly a dodgy care facility shut down by the authorities, the owners, George and Brenda Clements, sneakily reopened it as a hotel, and some of the former residents came back as hotel guests. How are they paying their hotel bill, in Crazy Dollars? To make things worse, the Clements' have made a pact with Satan to reincarnate their dead daughter in return for the blood sacrifice of a virgin.

Also because a woman couldn't get by without the help of a man, we have another sane hotel guest, Owain Pugh, a book collector and all around stand up guy, forced to seek shelter from the elements.

Barbara Withernshaw is a resident with a habit of adopting stray headcases, much like cats. Among her brood is Allison Darke-Smith, a mentally impaired woman who just so happens to be impregnated with the Christ child. Or the spawn of Satan. The book suggests both and never makes up it's mind.

Anyway, George's younger brother Harry is possessed by Satan and though he is killed in the process, his possessed hand detaches itself from his body, Evil Dead style, and becomes some sort of invisible phantom hand. The shadow hand then proceeds to molest every woman it comes across until it finds a foetus it can corrupt with it's demonic energy. Thus Allison gives birth to a evil deformed baby, supposedly the Clements' daughter Elspeth reborn, which then dies for some reason. Soon the phantom hand is possessing people left and right, while the Clements' attempt to capture Rose so they can offer her to Satan. Suzannah and Rosie whimper and cower while Owain does whatever needs to be done to save the day.

This book rarely makes a lick of sense, and seems more like a few different half-baked ideas crammed into one pulp novel. The idea of a dodgy hotel populated by maniacs is pretty scary in itself, the addition of the phantom hand and Satanic sacrifices just seems superfluous. The main characters frequently act like idiots, grabbing a cuppa in the hotel kitchen when most sane people would run screaming out the front door, weather be damned. Far more frightening than the phantom hand is the description of the hotel food... mushy pies and soggy chips, cooked by a filthy tramp in a kitchen that is surpassed in cleanliness by most pub toilets.

Overall this is a pretty weak entry in the Guy N. Smith canon. I paid $8.80 for this book in a secondhand bookshop, which is pretty expensive by Guy N. Smith standards. Looking at the inside page reveals it had previously sold for $1... that sounds about right.

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