My honest review of Chris Coppel’s “Lunacy”
A while back I was having lunch at my grandparents’. Halfway through the main course my grandpa, a man that could entertain you for hours just asking questions that sooner or later lead him to tell you about his life, asked me a specific question. “If you had to choose, would you buy a house in a big city or would you stay here in the countryside?”
His question caught me off-guard, because of course I didn’t know how to answer. Problem is, either option looked equally frightening to me, because in some way I dread the thought of long term commitment. It’s true about many aspect of life, but especially when it comes to housing.
There are so many things that can happen: I could get bored with my life, with my job, with anything else. I could feel the need to move, for whatever reason (and in fact this thought creeps a lot more often than it did just one year ago), and having some sort of long-term investment that ties me to where I currently am would make the decision process a real nightmare.
If you know me a little bit, you already know that the easiest way to scare me is to find something closely related to reality. Plainly supernatural stuff doesn’t work, unless there is a way to tie it to something “real”.
The reason for this long introduction (as if it was an annoying habit of mine) is to give you some context as to why I was enticed by the blurb of Chris Coppel’s “Lunacy” and I immediately knew I had to read it. Not because of the house haunting itself: I knew that the aspect that was going to scare me away the most was the protagonists’ resolution to commit to long time and actually buy a house.
A Bit of Spoiler-Free Context
At the beginning of the book, the protagonists are on the brink of making quite a big decision for their own life: Mike has been offered a job in a new town across the entire United States. “That’s good for them they never committed too hard on any of their previous homes,” I thought as I read the first few chapters. In a certain sense, I found a sort of affinity with Mike and Lisa and their lifestyle.
But then, a few chapters in, Lisa decides that it’s time to put some roots in the ground. She and Mike decide to take the giant leap and buy a house that it’s being built from the ground up. A sort of new start in a place that no one has ever inhabited before. It’s quite the decision to make, if you ask me, and I was astounded at how quick Mike and Lisa made it. And a bit scared for them.
It doesn’t take long before they get scared too, because something strange is going on with that house. It seems like it’s haunted, but how is it possible, if nothing was there before the house was built? And is there any correlation with the situation at Mike’s new job? Everything was fine there until he moved in the new house, but now things begin to slide south too, slowly but steady.
“Lunacy” as a reader
One thing that hit me in “Lunacy” is how the scares are never delivered in a sudden or explicit way. More importantly, it’s never graphic violence or gore, which is usually a cheap and sure way to provoke emotions in a reader. What happens in “Lunacy”, on the other hand, is a more dangerous kind of horror. It’s a slow crescendo of inexplicable events that rather than physically threatening Lisa and Mike threatens their mental sanity, and has them question it more often than not.
In my (not so) humble opinion, it made the story relatable, and surely standing out with respect many other examples in the genre. Rather than fearing for their physical well-being, Lisa and Mike begin to question whether they made the right choice with their almost impulse buy of the house. And realizing that you might have screwed up is quite a scary thing to experience, too. Maybe even scarier than living in your average house full of ghosts.
Haunted houses are quite an old trope in movies, books, and tv shows as well (this being one of my all-time favorite), and as such it’s quite hard to be original when coming up with such stories. But I think that the context Chris Coppel gave to the story and how it’s tied to other everyday-like aspect helped it stand out. Maybe not the biggest shock, but oh my the tension it builds, and how it resolves it.
To wrapt things up, the right book at the right point of my life, but also a refreshing read for any fan of the genre that wants to read yet another twist to the tropes.