Monday, 5 December 2016

"Class" Novel 3: "The Stone House" by A.K. Benedict (2016)

contains SPOILERS

A.K. Benedict has recently broken into the Doctor Who universe with a few Torchwood audio dramas, in many instances alongside Guy Adams and James Goss, her Class co-novelists (their novels are reviewed here and here). It was thus with a sense of relief that I saw the three names lined up to write these three novels, as I knew that the fact that it was Torchwood scribes signalled a certain maturity of content (not needlessly mature, like some of Torchwood's first season, but just appropriately challenging YA themes). Still, the fact that Benedict is a renowned horror writer gave me pause for thought: was the Gothic vibe, the Susan Hill horror of The Woman in Black that her novel The Stone House looked like it was going to emulate, really apposite for Class' general style? Did the two gel - the Gothic and the hyper-modern Shoreditch? Happily, the answer is a resounding yes, as this is, I think, the most successful of the three tie-in novels and a beautiful, elegiac novel in its own right. The old stone house at the heart of this novel turns out to be a perfect new setting for Class to explore, a dark Gothic stronghold amid its urban locale (with this in mind, the "Urban Legend" folklore site is a helpful bridge between the two). A haunted house story is perfect for an exploration of the twisted relationship between inner and outer spaces, of the burgeoning relationship between Self and World which obsesses us all in our teenage years. There is an icy chill to Benedict's prose - something fundamentally haunted and death-soaked about it all - which clings to you long after you've finished reading it, yet which does not by any means stop an essence of warmth and humanity from shining through beneath - in fact, quite the opposite; it only enhances it. It's the equivalent of the sun on your face in a Nordic winter; both sensations are pitched as extreme and heightened.