A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson (Book Review)
Plot: Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he’s hearing the private thoughts of the people around him-and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom’s existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of a compelling message from beyond the grave! This book inspired the acclaimed 1999 film starring Kevin Bacon.
My Review: I’m a sucker for reading books that were eventually made into movies. I like to read them before I see the movie if and when possible. Most of the time I don’t realize there is a book before watching the movie though. That was the case with this book. I had seen the movie staring Kevin Bacon numerous times, and loved it! It came out around the time The Sixth Sense did, and everyone thought Stir of Echoes was a rip-off, little did I (and apparently everyone else) know that it was actually a book written back in 1958! Once I found that out, I had to track it down, read it, and of course compare it to the movie.
Even though the book was written in the 50s you don’t notice that it takes place then. The only time it was “dated” was when they mention the babysitter “only” takes 50 cents an hour and they don’t use phones, instead they mail letters to family members. Other then that, there is nothing to signify that it takes place in that time.
The book and the movie share the basic plot, and some similar scenes. For example, the opening. We meet Tom and Anne and their son Richard. They go to a party at a neighbors house where Tom is hypnotized. After that Tom’s different. He’s more open to the thoughts and feelings of those around him. Now, there is a similar scene in the movie, obviously they switch it up, but the basic premise is the same.
From here on out the book is pretty different. Tom suffers from nightmares about a 30-something year old woman in his living room just standing there. She doesn‘t seem to do anything spooky, nor does she seem creepy in anyway. In the movie (if I recall correctly) he sees a teenage girl while being wide awake and she seems a little creepy. Also, Tom’s son sees her and talks to her about creepy things – like how she died. In the book his son is around 3-4 years old, so he doesn’t have as big of a role in the book as he did in the movie. He does have a part later on, when the “spirit” speaks through his sleeping body. But it just came across really weird to me. Kinda made the book a little more lame. The ghost in the movie frequently pops up, and Tom goes almost “insane” trying to figure out whats going on. Not really so in the book.
As the book goes on Tom mainly just has thoughts and feelings about his neighbors. Nothing really specific other then “bad” feelings. Sometimes when he touches objects he feels “bad” things. Half of the time those things aren’t explained. For example, one of the neighbors comes across “slutty” and he has really bad feelings about her, but we never find out why. Nothing seems really all that specific. Of course his wife thinks he’s completely losing it, so he goes to a shrink, who can give all sorts of reasons for every incident. All pointing to different paranormal sorts of things, but still they are explanations other then just saying its something supernatural.
As I said above there are some things mentioned but never lead anywhere. Another example is the scene with the babysitter. The girl is hired and Tom feels “bad” vibes from her. Later they return and say she was trying to kidnap Richard. Didn’t make much sense to me, she was out in the yard huddling with him. But why?
It just seems like a lot of scenes could be more detailed throughout the book and more scary. Maybe for its time it was spooky, but without more specific details, I don’t see how.
Overall: I expected more “spooks” from this book. Instead it was a little confusing and to me didn’t convey what was going on in the “action” moments very well. Bottom line is that I enjoyed the movie much much more then the book. But at least it was a quick read, and was nice to compare the two different versions.