QUIETUS
Vivian Schilling


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Hanover House USA, Jan 2002
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Psychological Horror

Kylie McCallum has led a life battered by death. Death by murder. Death by execution. Death by car wreck. Death by euthanasia. Death by suicide. Then what should have been death by plane crash, but this time four other people survived with her; and this is where the book begins.

As the plane goes down Kylie begins seeing things that couldnít possibly be real. Her husband Jack, sitting next to her, doesnít see the raven with too-human eyes sitting on the wing of their plummeting plane. After the major surgeries needed to keep four of them alive, none of the others remember the experiences that Kylie does from immediately after the crash. No one else sees the dead man who is stalking Kylie, uttering threats and declaring his love for her.

How much of this is related to heavy pain killers? To survivor guilt? To memories Kylie didnít know she had? To demon visitation? Throughout the book we are offered answer after answer, swinging interminably back and forth from the arcane to the mundane. Kylie wrestles with issues she cannot share, because the people around her misunderstand her to a spectacular degree. Once she is even put in jail because her mental condition doesnít allow her to defend herself.

Vivian Schilling has created living people for her story. For example, the depths she doesnít touch in Kylieís brother-in-law Dillon, we can intuit, because we know Dillon. He lives independently of the page. Kylieís vulnerable friend Amelie, also a survivor of the plane crash, has her time to dominate the story, building to an experience of terror that is completely realistic. Amelieís confused husband Dix, their priest, and Kylieís grieving father Sean McCallum, all have a life larger than their percentage of page time. Even the dead love from Kylieís past stirs compassion as well as fear. The only character we cannot feel empathetically is Jack, Kylieís beautiful, flawed husband, and that may be because Kylie herself cannot see him clearly. Schillingís characterization deserves high praise.

Vivian Schillingís own experience with a fatal car wreck fueled her interest in this subject, so she did research on survivor guilt. She also explored hellish medieval Christian ideas of the afterlife, and gives a chilling and convincing picture of her findings. Her vivid, imaginative writing style forms a multidimensional world and leaves irresistible and lasting pictures in the readerís mind. I may never look at medieval history the same again.

I had a tough time reviewing QUIETUS because I donít like horror as a category. I still donít know whether my dislike of the book is because of my personal feelings about horror, or whether at 600 pages this book really is as obsessively drawn-out as it seems to me. I will categorize this as "intellectual horror," and leave it to you to tell me what you think.

Oct 2002 Review Originally Published on the Independent Reviews Site

 

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