Review: Other Kingdoms
If you are an occasional or obsessive reader of the Horror genre, you know the name Richard Matheson. To say the guy is a legend and and icon doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. He is one of our favorite authors, and the author of our favorite works of fiction ever, I AM LEGEND. When we realized Matheson had a new novel being released this year, OTHER KINGDOMS, we contacted the lovely people at Tor and begged them for a review copy. We aren’t exaggerating. We groveled, offered bribes in the form of cookies, and even promised our undying love. We aren’t quite sure which one was the clincher, but a copy of OTHER KINGDOMS came as did an accompanying chorus of angels.
Even on his worst day, Matheson is amazing, and OTHER KINGDOMS is one of Matheson’s better days. The story plays out as an “honest” memoir of one Alexander White. As an 82-year-old man, White relates his personal story of surviving the WWI at the age of 18. He is injured in the trenches, and upon his discharge moves to a small town in England rather than going home to the US. It is here in the small English town of Gatford that White tells of his encounters with the strange and horrific that eventually lead him to becoming the author he is “today”.
There are many layers to this story which could have completely ruined it. We have an 82-year-old Alex telling us about his days as an 18-year-old. The simple difference in age and experience is enough to potentially make the novel unreadable. Not so for Matheson. Matheson recently celebrated his birthday (Happy Birthday, Sir!), and is able to perfectly capture the voice of an old, wise, rambling Alex White. He also manages to hit perfectly the tone of an immature, self-pitying 18-year-old. The blend of the two is near flawless.
What OTHER KINGDOMS comes down to is a love story. “What?” you say. “A love story? I thought this was Horror?” Don’t worry, it is. Matheson illustrates how perhaps nothing can be more horrific than love itself–especially to a young man. Matheson simultaneously shows how beautiful it can be. It is incredible how easily this literary legend (A. Black would be proud! You readers will understand the reference when you read the novel) juggles several opposing views throughout the entire work.
The pacing and flow of OTHER KINGDOMS moves along effortlessly. So effortlessly, in fact, that we read the novel in just a few hours. We didn’t want to put it down, and when we did, the story occupied our thoughts until we were compelled to pick it back up and finished it.
Now to be fair, we need to point out some of the things that bothered us, and that may bother you. This novel gets fairly sexual in a couple of places. It isn’t as graphic as, say, Richard K. Morgan, but the sections may shock you nonetheless. To us, some of them were a little much. For most of the novel, there is no language whatsoever. But then when it happens, it is very strong and therefore even more shocking–we assume this was the intent of it. Maybe this all will bother you, maybe not–like any book, it isn’t for everyone. Regardless, it is hard to dwell on it due to how quickly the novel pulls you along.
Matheson’s OTHER KINGDOMS is a unique experience. It contains Matheson’s amazing writing and the horror he is know for while also containing love and tragedy. It is the type of novel that grows more enjoyable the more you think upon it. Should you read it? Without question. Happy Birthday, Richard Matheson, and thank you for giving you readers a new novel to devour. May you have many, many more years.
Recommended Age: 18+
Language: When it comes, it is strong and shocking. It contrasts dramatically with the rest of the novel where the narrator intentionally avoids swearing.
Violence: From descriptions of the trenches in WWI to the young Alex White’s adventures in England, things can get violent, horrific and descriptive. Matheson has been doing this for longer most, so he knows exactly how to do it.
Sex: Uh, yeah. Telling you exactly what happens would kill the story for you, but suffice it to say that things get fairly graphic for a spell.
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