I finished Raven by Charles Grant last night and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started the book, but given the genre and the cover picture, I think I more or less got it! My only criticism is that I think the story deserved a stronger ending. The question in the back of your mind throughout the read is “who or what is the raven?” I won’t spoil the book by suggesting any options, but suffice to say that I would have like to see an “oh my God, really!?” ending opposed to the bitter sweet “which do you think it was?” ending that you actually get. If you read this review then the book, hopefully this information will prompt you to pay that bit more attention to the hints and cues. Maybe there is only one dedicate outcome and I just missed it.
Raven was one long build up of tensions not least aided by the absence of chapters! I have to admit that I didn’t actually notice there was no chapters until I read a review after I had finished it, but that’s not the point. Maybe under the circumstances, it is better and even more powerful to say that this book is so tense that you don’t even notice whether there are chapters or not! But I digress… The story built from a relatively relaxed start to an end where the atmosphere that could be cut with a knife (and a couple of people had a go too!) Here lies the strength of the book. It manages to slowly build, in the longest section for about 1/4 of the book, without feeling slow. Back stories are quietly wound into the events and conversations that occur in the motel, before long Charles Grant has you wondering when something big is going to happen while at the same time quite enjoying the build up and character reactions.
The main thrust of the book is based around the owner of the motel, Neil. It’s his 40th birthday that is being so severely interfered with! This fact is not really a central theme, but it’s mentioned enough to make sure it is regularly bought back into your mind. I got the feeling that although you never get a conclusive understanding of the reason behind the nights events, Neil’s birthday may have a lot to answer for! Maybe I’m being over sensitive as I am almost 40 myself? It feels weird to identify with that aspect of a book that I was lent it to read when I was 20! Maybe I knew I had to wait to get the best out of it?? That’s a long shot as far as excuses go, but I’m sticking with it!!
Raven was not a long book. I could say that this stopped the book losing pace, but I think Mr. Grant (Charles is to familiar and I hate it when articles go with surname only… Full Name or Mr.G, although I can live with dropping the L.) Has manages to condense what could have been a longer book, and for this fact I am extremely jealous…
A long time ago I came up with a concept that I never managed to write (no surprise there then.) I wanted to write what I think of as half way between a script and a book, using the readers own visual queues to paint a vivid picture for a story by only hinting at settings and feelings with minimal short sentences. For example:
Tropical island, beach, parasols, hotel bar, crystal clear water.
I wanted to invoke images with the minimal amount of intervention therefore keeping each readers pure memories or imagination instead of influencing them too much. I never managed to find a way to satisfy that goal and keep writing in a way that retained the required flow. I kind of assumed that’s why English has all those extra words in!! For me, Raven has come closer to that ideal than I have seen in any other book, and annoyingly Charles Grant has still managed to produce an evocative, readable text. My previous front runner was Neuromancer by William Gibson. That book is so visual and evocative of the environments that it portrays, but I always describe it as hard to read. My experience was one where I struggled for the first paragraph or so until I got into the book and “watched the film”. Each time I picked it up; clunk, clunk, clunk, then I was in. I experienced none of that with Raven. On the other hand, Raven was painting it’s story on a much smaller scale than Neuromancer. William Gibson’s book will always have a special place in my heart where Raven was just really good.
There are reviews on the back of Raven, so I thought it would be fun to comment on them for accuracy now that I have read it:-
“Grant’s style of horrors takes hold of your spinal cord and plays it like a violin. His prose leaks with moody atmosphere… And the pace never lags”
I can’t agree with the first sentence of this comment, but the second is bang on.
“Smooth, sophisticated and frightening”
I’m not sure whether this comment was a a quick response when some likely words were asked for, or a very considered response by an impressed reader who took Charles Grant’s lead and removed as many superfluous words as possible. Either was, all of them fit a description of the book.