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Earthbound by Richard Matheson
Review by Steve Sawicki
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765311712
Date: 01 April, 2005 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

There's not much doubt that Matheson is a terrific writer and there's not much doubt that he's been influential not only in the horror field but in mainstream literature as well. So, you have to ask yourself, just what is he doing at Tor? Is this a sign of something? Perhaps.

First off, this is a light novel, even though it weighs in at 222 pages of fairly large type. Second, it's an erotic ghost story and you have to wonder at the emphasis since Hell House certainly had it's share of eroticism. The clues start to add up.

The story revolves around David and Ellen Cooper who have come to a lonely beach side cottage to try to rekindle their marriage after David has been caught in an affair. Shortly after they arrive, David meets Marianna, a beautiful and enticing stranger who seems to have an interest in David. It does not take long for David to put aside all of his good intentions and give in to her charms. The kicker, in case you haven't figured it out yet is that Marianna is a ghost, an unearthly spiritual succubus from beyond the grave. David slowly figures this out as things grow worse for him and his wife. He begins to unravel the history of Marianna and the area itself.

I have to say that there's really not much horror here, unless you are afraid of beautiful young women. Matheson tries to infuse a sense of dread with the setting and an almost constant rain coupled with the foreboding warnings of a neighbor. However, the problem remains that we have a man who has cheated at least once, cheating again and then we are expected to somehow both identify with and forgive this transgression because he was powerless to prevent it. Powerless, that is until the end of the book where he finally manages to resolve things.

The writing in this book is very strong and the setting sharp. The characters themselves are well defined and somewhat interesting. Even the ghost and the neighbor have their parts to play and are well scripted. The problem seems to be that this may have been written simply as a vehicle to get some sex scenes out there. The sex scenes are not anything special and read like they were written by a sixty year old who had led a somewhat sheltered life and was putting out what he thought was steamy sex based on imagination rather than experience. Unfortunately, there's nothing new here and if you're looking for a scare or even social redemption you should probably look elsewhere.

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