Stir of Echoes – Richard Matheson (1958)

A Stir of EchoesRichard Matheson not only established himself as one of the greatest writers of horror fiction with his seminal novel “I am Legend” (adapted to screen in three distinctly different, yet entertaining movies) but also cemented his stature as one of the greatest genre television writers having scripted many classic episodes for the original The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Night Gallery, his own series, Circle of Fear and even wrote Steven Spielberg’s TV movie Duel  about the ghostly 18 wheeler menacing a man driving a car on a desolate highway.

A blend of mystery, horror and science fiction, his stories and novels have been widely adapted to the silver screen as well with adaptations that include The Incredible Shrinking Man (The Shrinking Man), Somewhere in Time (Bid Time Return), The Legend of Hell House (Hell House), What Dreams May Come and the more recent Real Steel.

With all of the above writing credentials you could imagine the high expectations I had for Stir of Echoes, a novel I’d squirreled away for a rainy day and one I swore I would read before watching the movie adaptation I have sitting on DVD shelves.

Tom Wallace develops ESP like powers after being innocently hypnotized by his brother in-law at a dinner party despite being assured that he was released from the hypnotic trance. When he begins seeing late night apparitions of a mysterious black dressed woman in his house, he and his expectant wife begin a rapid descent into an uncertain and nerve-wracking household. As his abilities intensify, his cognitive powers begin to peer into the thoughts and visions of his fellow neighbors and the landlords next door. Eventually Toms capabilities begin to have him react to particular objects upon touch.

The social get-togethers with two neighbor couples exude nuances of infidelity, naivety, lust and mistrust. These fragile relationships among the three couples soon fall apart once Tom’s inferences boil to the surface. Meanwhile the status of former tenant, a sister of the woman who is his current landlord living with a foreboding husband, becomes a concern as they learn of the last tenant’s abrupt departure and lack of communication with anyone since.

Toms and his wife, now in a fragile bond themselves, start to piece together the clues leading to conjectures that may explain the mystery of the former tenant. When their supposed gruesome fate is proven to be conclusive, they confront the guilty party, only to find one more surprise.

I found the first half of the novel to be fairly timid, focusing more on Tom and his wife’s struggles with his new found powers rather the the obvious mystery at hand. The novel does pick up interest and intrigue as they concentrate more on the meaning of his perceptions, but the buildup falls flat at the end, and suffers doubly when presented with a contrived surprise ending that is both clumsy and a cheat. While entertaining, I expected more from Matheson, especially the ending.

I have both the Stir of Echoes movie and it’s sequel Stir of Echoes 2 (A.K.A Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming) sitting on my shelves and will be watching them sometime soon, if for no other reason than to hope that they improved on that unsavory ending.


Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: