The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
When Conrad buys a big old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn't share his enthusiasm, reluctant at the idea of leaving their LA life. But Conrad's new purchase is not all that it seems. Soon Conrad is hearing the ghostly wailing of a baby in the night, seeing blood on the floor & being haunted by a woman who looks exactly like Jo.
Before opening this book, I had a quick read of the back cover which informed me I was about to read "the scariest book since The Shining." Now, call me a cynic, but I thought that was probably a bit of a stretch. Not only have I come away entirely correct, I have also come away incredibly pissed off at spending precious reading time on this tripe.
Ransom drags us into his terrifying house in Wisconsin where all the wild things his head can conjure are about to happen. The first 100 pages are gripping; I enjoyed getting to know the characters, their situation, and I must admit I was suitably terrified by a doll chasing the protagonist around his bedroom. The plot is set up to undoubtedly twist towards the end, and I was looking forward to this. What ensues are a further 300 pages of nonsense, a main character I wanted to boot in the shins, and a twist which could be better described as a slight bend.
Our protagonist, Conrad, is a hateful entity. I do enjoy books where I'm taught to loathe the narrator, but this didn't work here; and how I loathed him. A ridiculous, pathetic, selfish man, who drinks so much iced tea I actually thought it was part of the twist; an idiot who gets embroiled in his haunted house and doesn't seem able to make any sound decisions unless they involve his penis. Ransom writes of Conrad's sexual longings to develop the idea of the house trying to create a baby; instead of achieving this understanding in his reader, he (unwillingly) casts Conrad as the pervert next door. I hated him, and at every turn of the page wished the house would gobble him up and spit him out the back door.
The finale was frustrating, pretty boring, and tied up barely any of the hints Ransom had left for us in the preceding pages. Hardly anything was explained, but by this point you're just keen to get to the last page and move on.
Utterly disappointing, with only one real terrifying scene before you realise the whole thing belongs in the bin; please avoid this at all costs and go back to the The Shining. Whoever compared this to King's finest work should be made to read no other novel but this one until their dying day.