Review: “Heirloom,” Graham Masterton

Rating: 3 out of 5

In Graham Masterton’s horror story Heirloom, an antiques dealer comes into possession of a huge throne-like chair that seems to have hypnotic effects. When it seems to move on its own from the garage to the library, it doesn’t take long for Rick, his wife Sara, and their son Jonathan (6) to realize that they aren’t imagining things. Time dilates in odd ways, all of the living things on their property start to die off as if summer has turned to fall, and after their dog sits on the chair he becomes very ill. Rick tries to get rid of the chair, but it always returns–and when he starts hearing its voice in his head, it threatens his family. Finally he meets David, who wants the chair and knows a few things about it. Now they just have to figure out how to get it to stop returning to Rick!

The story behind the chair is actually pretty interesting, as is what it’s up to right now. Rick’s inability to get rid of the chair, coupled with its threats toward his family (most particularly six-year-old Jonathan), keep things quite tense.

One thing I didn’t like is that as far as I could tell, pretty much every worker in a service job was Mexican or something else similar, while everyone not in a service job was white. It was so matter of fact that it felt like the author just assumed that this was naturally the proper place and context for non-whites. There were one or two other little details that left me feeling there was a tinge of xenophobia to the book.

Rick apparently met Sara in college. Instead of simply walking up to her and asking her out, he deliberately rear-ended her car. That’s seriously some stalker-level crud, and risked injuring her because it doesn’t take a high-velocity crash to potentially cause whiplash. Yet it isn’t treated as though his actions were in any way bad.

There’s an odd moment where in the midst of all the building horror, Rick and Sara take a break to argue about whether he shaved. I realize this was to indicate that time had, in fact, jumped forward for them, but it was incredibly out of place and wasn’t even necessary. I’m also pretty impressed that a person could get flung back and forth all around a room in a house and yet it was easily cleaned up afterward. There should have been blood all over the walls and furniture, and that doesn’t come out so easily.

This starts out as a somewhat personal and claustrophobic horror, but becomes broader and more widely impactful later on. The switch is slightly jarring, but also very interesting. Over all, the horror is great, but the details tended to be problematic. If you don’t care about the details as much, you’ll almost certainly like this book more than I did.

Content note for explicit sex, animal death, and gore. Also, the characters are a bit on the religious side (Christian)–that might make you either more or less interested.

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