Anyone who follows the paranormal/conspiracy/’alternative’ side of journalism and science, but crucially, doesn’t buy into it, will undoubtedly have mooted the idea that those espousing their ‘truths’ may be possessing some intriguing psychological…differences. This idea is just one of many that Stephen Graham Jones’ latest chapbook (like a novella, to save you the google) skillfully plays with.
It’s an intriguing theme to look at, as it charts the slow slide from the world of respected academia to this world of the weird. The method by which our central character tries to save himself is by investigating and revealing the true forces behind the phenomenon he names The Elvis Room. The principle is thus: all hotels leave one room vacant because, as they’ve discovered to their disfortune, that if all the rooms in the hotel are occupied, one or more customers will die that night. Its a great central idea; one that’s simple enough, sufficiently spooky, and takes place in a necessarily commonplace and mundane setting, that it may very well be consumed by society and become a genuine urban legend of its own.
What’s great about stories such as The Elvis Room however, is that it take the time to explore the practicalities and mechanisms of the extraordinary. Often the best parts of ghost hunting tales are those detailing the investigation, methods and technology employed to catch the otherworldly. The Elvis Room is no different, but it manages to make this staple feel fresh, with its decidedly down at heel, weary and increasingly delusional approach. Motivations are a little glossed over however and they do go from nought to obsessed at an alarming rate; it’s a little unbelievable and the G-force of this acceleration does knock the reader out of the story somewhat.
The other fun aspect of The Elvis Room is that it shows the flipside of these mechanics. The ghosts have a fresh spin put on their reasons for roaming places they’re typically spotted and it works wonderfully. It’s a fantastic piece of micro world building and it would be great to see the workings of this universe explored from other angles.
Overall The Elvis Room is a great book that echoes the spirit of Lovecraft, giving a lick paint to reliable tropes while adding some impressive 21st century folklore all of its own.
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