Dark Book Review – The Phantom Cabinet
Review Written By Casey Douglass
WHEN HEAVEN AND HELL DON’T EXIST…WHAT DOES? Space Shuttle Conundrum collides with empty atmosphere, passing from known reality into the realm beyond life. At the same time, a dead newborn is resurrected amidst a hospital-wide poltergeist infestation. What connects these ghastly occurrences and how can the fate of humanity rest on a single boy’s shoulders? As the haunted Douglas Stanton spends his adolescence an outcast—his only friend the ghost of a long lost astronaut—a porcelain-masked entity lurks in the shadows, planning Douglas’ demise. Because Douglas is the key… the key to the door… the door between what we know and what we fear. And when the key is turned…realities will come crashing together. Step into The Phantom Cabinet…
The first few chapters of The Phantom Cabinet set the scene for what the reader might expect from author Jeremy Thompson. It kicks off with a full-blown self-mutilation scenario on board a space shuttle that put me in mind of one of my fave sci-fi films Event Horizon. Gore and viscera fly, suicide and numb acceptance prevail. The next chapter depicts the poltergeist infestation mentioned in the blurb. Let’s just say that this doesn’t go much better for the poor victims of fear, and also, is one hell (pun intended) of a way for baby Douglas to come into our world.
The story proper starts after this, the confusion and character hopping of the earlier sections giving way to a calmer narrative pace that lets the reader focus on Douglas and his own peculiar troubles: that of being a magnet for departed spirits, not all of them friendly. As you might imagine, this is quite an impediment for a growing child, who frequently finds himself around the disaster area of spirit manifestations and atrocities.
I thought that this aspect of the book was very well realised. The reader ends up feeling truly sorry for Douglas as, for the most part, the other characters, both flesh and spirit, are out to get him. It’s almost a relief when he makes friends with Emmett and Benjy, two other kids not much further up the social scale than himself. The Phantom Cabinet shows how hard growing up can be, without being paranormally afflicted too. Jeremy Thompson also does a great job with letting the characters grow and change. Friends become enemies, bullies evolve and nothing stays stagnant, which is a very pleasing thing to see.
For all the ghosts Douglas sees, there are some recurring ones that are either out to aid or hinder him. His nemesis is a strange creation, but very effective in her weirdness and design. If you like Transformers, imagine a ghost version, where lesser ghosts build up to become one super strong one, and you are a fraction of the way there. I thought she was really well realised and her continual presence lurking throughout the book added a great sense of oppression to the narrative.
Structurally, the book is made up of quite small sections, which, while early on felt a little confusing, as I've already covered, but once well into the meat of the tale, provide a great momentum for the reader, not giving any one scene or happening too much wordage and so avoiding the risk of things becoming a bit dull or over familiar. I really liked this. The Phantom Cabinet is also a very easy read, a book that I seemed to get through more quickly than my average for a horror tale. The structure also lets you see how various fringe characters meet their end. Some of the deaths and the visions that lead to them are particularly inventive, one of my favourites featuring a hag-like woman taking some babies out for a walk. That doesn’t sound too bad until you read the nuances in the actual situation. It kind of stays with you. It did me anyway.
The Phantom Cabinet is a well-paced and interesting read, the gore and supernatural sitting easily with the isolated life of Douglas, and creates a great feeling of sympathy for him. The ending was satisfying, although I felt it seemed a little too compressed, like the end events were over a bit too quickly.
I give The Phantom Cabinet 4.5/5. It was an easy read with inventiveness and style and I would happily recommend it to any fan of horror fiction.
Visit Jeremy Thompson’s Goodreads page here for more information about him and to browse his other books.
I was given a free copy of the book to review.
Book Title: The Phantom Cabinet
Book Author: Jeremy Thompson