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“An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro Alex Grand is a successful crime novelist until his latest book is condemned for appropriating the experience of victims of abuse. In a bid to rescue his reputation he ghostwrites a memoir of abuse on behalf of a survivor, Carl Batchelor. Carl’s account proves to be less than entirely “An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro Alex Grand is a successful crime novelist until his latest book is condemned for appropriating the experience of victims of abuse. In a bid to rescue his reputation he ghostwrites a memoir of abuse on behalf of a survivor, Carl Batchelor. Carl’s account proves to be less than entirely reliable; someone is alive who shouldn’t be. As Alex investigates the background of Carl’s accusations his grasp of the truth of the book and of his own involvement begins to crumble. When he has to testify in a court case brought about by Carl’s memoir, this may be one step too far for his insecure mind…


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“An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro Alex Grand is a successful crime novelist until his latest book is condemned for appropriating the experience of victims of abuse. In a bid to rescue his reputation he ghostwrites a memoir of abuse on behalf of a survivor, Carl Batchelor. Carl’s account proves to be less than entirely “An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro Alex Grand is a successful crime novelist until his latest book is condemned for appropriating the experience of victims of abuse. In a bid to rescue his reputation he ghostwrites a memoir of abuse on behalf of a survivor, Carl Batchelor. Carl’s account proves to be less than entirely reliable; someone is alive who shouldn’t be. As Alex investigates the background of Carl’s accusations his grasp of the truth of the book and of his own involvement begins to crumble. When he has to testify in a court case brought about by Carl’s memoir, this may be one step too far for his insecure mind…

57 review for Somebody's Voice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murray Ewing

    I’m tempted to say this is the book where one of our leading horror writers, Ramsey Campbell, writes a non-horror novel — only, you might not notice, considering the levels of anxiety involved. So instead I’ll say that here Campbell is writing in his own special genre, what he has termed “the comedy of paranoia”, and a distinctly dark sort of comedy it is. It could also be called a deal-with-the-devil tale, as, although there’s no devil, protagonist Alex Grand certainly enters into a bargain with I’m tempted to say this is the book where one of our leading horror writers, Ramsey Campbell, writes a non-horror novel — only, you might not notice, considering the levels of anxiety involved. So instead I’ll say that here Campbell is writing in his own special genre, what he has termed “the comedy of paranoia”, and a distinctly dark sort of comedy it is. It could also be called a deal-with-the-devil tale, as, although there’s no devil, protagonist Alex Grand certainly enters into a bargain with seriously unintended consequences. A crime writer with a long-running series, Grand is criticised over his latest novel, which dips perhaps too superficially into the world of child abuse and gender transition. His publisher, at the aptly-named Tiresias Press, suggests he helps write the memoir of an abuse survivor, gender-transitioned Carl, as a way of making amends. (And we get the chapters from Carl’s early life as Carla as part of the narrative, which make for some pretty uncomfortable reading.) But it’s from this point things start to go a little weird for Alex. He begins to find it hard to recall which passages of Carl’s story he embellished as part of making them into a readable narrative, and even starts recalling passages of Carl’s story as though they were his own memories. And when some parts of the Carl’s story prove to have been somewhat less than true, the need to disentangle an already knotty mess of fiction, memory, lies and truth starts to push Alex over the edge. I’ve said this is a book written in Campbell’s most darkly comic tone, but don’t expect punchlines or a laughter track. (Perhaps a little, as with the Shakespearean-themed restaurant, Aye There’s The Rib, with its punning titles for menu items.) This is squirm-inducing comedy, written with such a straight face it’s easy to miss at first. Campbell has always been a master at those frustrating conversations where everything you say is misunderstood in the worst possible way, and here he has driven that to the max. He’s also great at having the plot pull the ground out from under you at the end of each chapter, and that’s another thing on full display here. Once it gets its grip on you, Somebody’s Voice keeps the anxiety at boiling point. In part a satire on modern cultural sensitivities, in part the story of a writer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in part a novel about the destabilising effect of trauma on identity, and the borderland between imagination and memory — it might even be an allegory of the creative process — Somebody’s Voice is something new from Campbell, yet distinctly his own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary Fry

    SOMEBODY’S VOICE by Ramsey Campbell Review by Gary Fry The theme of abnormal psychology is common in Ramsey Campbell’s work, and more recently he’s focused specifically on what he terms “the comedy of paranoia”, the way beleaguered characters negotiate contemporary life and are frequently tipped into feelings of nebulous persecution. In many of the non-supernatural novels, his troubled characters’ pathologies precede the narratives’ onset (The Face That Must Die, The Last Voice They Hear, Silent C SOMEBODY’S VOICE by Ramsey Campbell Review by Gary Fry The theme of abnormal psychology is common in Ramsey Campbell’s work, and more recently he’s focused specifically on what he terms “the comedy of paranoia”, the way beleaguered characters negotiate contemporary life and are frequently tipped into feelings of nebulous persecution. In many of the non-supernatural novels, his troubled characters’ pathologies precede the narratives’ onset (The Face That Must Die, The Last Voice They Hear, Silent Children, Secret Stories), but in the similarly social realist shorter fiction we often see how negative experiences precipitate mental collapse (“The End of the Line”, “McGonagall in the Head”, “Unblinking”, and any number of others). With the exception perhaps of The Count of Eleven, we’ve yet to have a novel-length account of incipient psychological disintegration that doesn’t involve outré elements (as in, say, The House on Nazareth Hill). But now here is Somebody’s Voice. The story involves crime novelist Alex Grand attempting to salvage his reputation after being accused in his latest work of appropriating the experiences of an abuse victim. He agrees to ghost-write a memoir based on the childhood of Carl Batchelor, who was ostensibly sexually abused as a girl (Carla) by her father. Carl has since transitioned into a man. Thus begins one of Campbell’s most headlong thrillers. Indeed, its page-flipping structure, alternating between present and past accounts, is almost unprecedented in his work. Yes, earlier novels have employed cliff-hanger chapter endings, propelling the reader forwards to learn “what happens next”, but rarely with such a relentless purpose. Which is not to suggest that the novel courts commercial potboiler status. Quite the contrary. The main theme – the incremental disintegration of identity – is as serious-minded as anything in the author’s catalogue and might even be his central concern as a writer. In fact, the development of events leading to a significant revelation in Alex Grand’s life boasts an uncomfortable intimacy which fans of Campbell, particularly those familiar with his autobiographical essays, will find both disturbing and moving. The literary aspirations embedded in a popular thriller form are reinforced by an ending that prioritises psychological closure over any reader hunger for melodrama. There is here no sinister denouement in some dank cellar (such as we find in, say, Psycho, a work with which this novel shares kinship), rather an intense court case during which the multiple strands Campbell has masterly marshalled come together in a painful moment that crowns the book’s themes. Campbell is not above conventional resolutions (his supernatural fiction contains any number of breathless final scene confrontations) but in this novel he explores his lead character’s inner life, a quieter consideration that relies on reader investment in that dimension of fiction. I doubt I’ve read a more convincing account of incipient paranoia, the way an underlying issue is gradually exposed by stressful events involving livelihood and interpersonal attachments. Campbell’s blurring of two broad storylines is a technical tour de force and packed with suggestive nuance. Alex’s stress-induced tendency to register experiential patterns where there are perhaps none (e.g. the parallels between two families depicted in the novel) forces the reader to share his doubts and suspicions, deriving suspense from his increasingly fractured perceptions. Individual characters become inherently ambiguous – Carl’s dogmatic certainty (authentic or feigned?), Alex’s father’s crankiness (illness or guilt?), his partner Lee’s editorialising (occupational hazard or deliberately disorienting?). It’s hard to know who or what to believe. This is far more insidious than the horror of event; it’s the stuff of literary frisson. And the prose? Well, that’s all grist to the savage mill. Take the following extract: "Beyond the promenade the pier reaches for the horizon, where the sky is paler than the water. Waves intermittently topped with foam ripple around the pier, a sight that make Alex feel unstable. The promenade is crowded, and he feels safe because none of the people know him. All the same, he feels watched. Anyone could use a drone … but now he realises that he’s thinking of his latest novel’s plot. Once the book is written, all these ideas will be out of his head." Except hold on. Forgive me for tricking you. That wasn’t Campbell at all. That was rather how a lot of merely good writers might put it. But this is how Campbell does so: "Beyond the promenade the pier pretends to reach halfway to the horizon, where the sky is a paler grey than the water. Waves intermittently topped with foam tug at the pier in an insistent bid to draw it out to sea, so that Alex has to keep reminding himself that the land is stable underfoot. The promenade is crowded, and he finds he feels safest among people who don’t know him, but how will he feel when nobody does? Even if he can’t see anybody watching, that doesn’t mean he isn’t being watched. Anyone could use a drone to watch and lie in wait – for his detective, he means, or a potential victim. Once the scene is written the idea will be out of his head." The additional phrasings are essential; don’t let any monomaniac fool (“eliminate unnecessary words at all cost!”) claim otherwise. This tricksy stylistic second version has hypnotic impact as, page after page, the author’s inventive ingenuity plays games with readers’ minds. Campbell’s sentences simply work harder than those of other writers, their resonant references to many others offering the book internal intensity. Consider the following examples. When Alex’s editor partner Lee (already craftily characterised as an arbiter of both his written and spoken text) brings in drinks, she “resembles a quotation, flanked by inverted commas on the empty mugs she holds.” Later, when Alex awakens from sleep, he observes: "[…] Lee’s sunlit face gazing down at him. Mist drifts across it, so that he wonders if he’s only dreaming he has come back to himself, or are his eyes behaving unlike his? He’s struggling to grasp his consciousness when he realises he’s seeing steam from one of the mugs of coffee she’s holding." On another occasion, Alex and Lee dine together: "He has a glass of merlot first, and several with the steak, which isn’t as rare as he prefers. No doubt that’s his fault or would be said to be. “No blood tonight,” he confines himself to saying, which earns him a puzzled if not worried look." These are just examples of two characters consuming drinks and the accumulative, off-centre, menacing fun Campbell has with the theme. There are many, many other repeated issues with just as much suggestive material baked into them. It’s collectively intoxicating. To enhance readability, the narrative’s dialogue is as lean and rhythmic as it surely can be. Some pages even resemble a stage-play script, such is the unnecessariness of said-isms and other behavioural directions Campbell makes plain with only his (admittedly eccentric) command of how people communicate. Yes, the talk is stylised, but so is most fictional dialogue, and few other writers capture the way speech in real life frequently lapses into unwitting revelations, engagement at cross-purposes, and attendant misunderstandings. As the book advances, and Alex’s fracturing mental state grows more pervasive, Campbell’s modulation of prose becomes apparent. His depiction of perception and consciousness starts slip-sliding away, inducing a reality whose stability is all a-wobble. Too many words in a Twitter post “[blush] as if they’ve been caught out”. A street-sign announces, “NORTHAMPTON SAINTS WORK MIRACLES”, which, despite Alex’s religious preoccupations at that time, turns out to refer to just a rugby team. A house full of loud music “beats like a massive heart.” All of this is perfect tonal accompaniment to the fragile psychology under scrutiny. Dark fiction is not all about event; it’s also in the communication, the words that count. But event there is, and certainly dark. Some of the book’s earliest passages, involving scenes of abuse, are as disturbing as anything in the author’s oeuvre. Couple this with a rich, lived world full of earthy detail, and the whole thing comes to pungent life. I particularly enjoyed the various church sequences, as well as the oily, fractious team dynamics described in the taxi company scenes. And the dysfunctional family get-togethers will make you cringe like some socially awkward fly on the wall. Which leaves only one issue to address. In the current cultural climate, it might seem unwise for an artist (let’s be direct, a cisgender male) to depict a transgender character (Carla/Carl), particularly one whose behaviours are questionably dishonourable. But I should point to context. In a series of more recent socio-political fictions (e.g. Thieving Fear, Think Yourself Lucky, and plenty of short stories), Campbell has examined many important aspects of contemporary life, remaining informed and relevant when other senior artists might be forgiven for losing touch with our youthful culture’s pulse. It is therefore not unusual for him to incorporate in his work transgender issues, which, despite having a long history, have risen to the media fore latterly. Certainly anyone suspecting a cynical attempt to court publicity from controversy is way off the mark. As to depicting transgender characters in fiction, I have some sympathy with those who might claim, on the basis of difficulties faced by members of the community, that any and all artistic presentations should avoid negative attributes. However, Carl is revealed to be nothing less than recognisably human. Yes, he’s more than a little slippery on the matter of truth, but as one of the novel’s main themes concerns the capacity of anyone to accurately recollect the past, I don’t consider that an egregious fault on the character’s part (let alone the author’s). On another sensitive issue, in my reading of the novel, the causes of Carla’s desire to transition cannot be reduced to the ostensible abuse she suffered as a child. There are carefully crafted scenes in which she experiences at a later period what might be described as gender role strain, prompting feelings about her status in society at large. Let me quote (necessarily at length) to illustrate one example: "Some of the female parties I picked up [in my taxi] bothered me more. Most of them acted glad, saying things like “Let’s hear it for the girls,” but too many seemed to think I mightn’t be as competent as my male colleagues, unless they had some other reason for wanting a man. Some male fares were so courteous it felt patronising, and others asked how much extra I’d charge to pleasure them […] As for the men who tried to advise me how to drive, most of them weren’t joking at all. "[…] There was just one party of four men that left me feeling vulnerable. They were so noisy and restless I suspected they were coked as well as drunk, and when I delivered them to a street with no working lights in Birkenhead they tried to convince me they’d paid in advance. I kept the doors locked and said I’d call the police unless they paid up, and when they told me to do it and started suggesting what I could do to myself I made the call. They began trying to smash the partition and the windows, and one of them phoned someone to help. I heard a front door slam somewhere up the road – at least I wasn’t parked outside the house they would be visiting – and more men than I’d got in my taxi appeared in the headlights, brandishing baseball bats. I was getting ready to drive at them till I saw red and blue flashes in my mirror. They were lights on a police car […] The men with bats vanished back into the dark, and the police made my passengers pay up, and would have arrested them if I’d pressed charges. Because I was afraid of making trouble for the firm, I let the men go. I drove some way to keep the police in sight, and then I parked while my legs stopped shaking and the rest of me did. "[My boss] said I’d done all the right things and told me I was brave. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn’t help thinking the party wouldn’t have tried to steal from any of the other drivers. Some of my confrontations with passengers made me feel I was playing a role that wasn’t quite me yet – that wouldn’t be till I grasped what it was." As we see clearly here, Carla’s decision to transition arises from long, complex psychological engagement in life and cannot be reduced to a univariate cause. Any close reading of the novel reveals that Campbell richly dramatizes that. Finally on this matter, let me add that I, too, am a cisgender male, but I’ve done modest work to understand salient issues. I took a lot from Susan Stryker’s sterling book about the movement (Transgender History, 2017) and have followed various debates in social media involving the likes of Julia Serano, Juno Roche, and others. I’m certainly not suggesting that this grants me special insights into the area, rather claiming that I’ve made concerted efforts to appreciate its contours, just as I try to understand many lived experiences different from mine. Life is always challenging if one arises from circumstances that vary from what we inadequately term “the norm”. Indeed, anyone with a serious interest and investment in the discussion offered here might read (or reread) the autobiographical essays I alluded to earlier, those detailing Ramsey Campbell’s own upbringing. Struggles come in many forms. Campbell is aware enough to include in Somebody’s Voice a meta-discussion of issues arising from artists appropriating the experiences of people with unique personal histories. Given the points I’ve addressed above, it would disappoint me if the novel were problematised or even dismissed on the basis of these fictional strands. Indeed, the book is more firmly oriented around the theme of existential identity, memory, and the past. Alex’s increasing inability to determine whether his recollections are accurate or inventions gets to the heart of what it is to be captured in time and space with significant others. These are universal concerns that transcend socio-cultural and/or biological divisions. Ultimately, Somebody’s Voice is about the challenges of being human, and surely that’s something we can all agree on. It’s also one of the most gripping reads I’ve had in years. As the saying goes, win win.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Condello

    “Somebody’s Voice” is destined to be incredibly contentious and controversial. Provocative, compelling, trashy, and a tad melodramatic. It raises reasonable and fascinating questions about identity, memory, how we know and define ourselves and how our pasts, our memories of our past, whether real or imagined, shape and mold us. There was potential here for something incredibly powerful and profound, but where I would have appreciated subtlety and nuance the author instead brought a sledge hammer “Somebody’s Voice” is destined to be incredibly contentious and controversial. Provocative, compelling, trashy, and a tad melodramatic. It raises reasonable and fascinating questions about identity, memory, how we know and define ourselves and how our pasts, our memories of our past, whether real or imagined, shape and mold us. There was potential here for something incredibly powerful and profound, but where I would have appreciated subtlety and nuance the author instead brought a sledge hammer. Even still it could have worked if It had led to more justifiable and believable endings for the characters. Full of sometimes mind numbing dialogue and insane plot twists that didn’t feel logical it all felt so overwrought and over the top. It gave me Lifetime movie vibes. Still I couldn’t stop turning the pages until I reached its incredibly unsatisfying conclusion. This novel is sure to outrage many. I am not easily offended. I like to read everything, especially things that others may find controversial because I think it’s good to confront yourself with ideas and world views that may not be your own. Ramsey Campbell has the foundation of something intriguing and alluring here, but it’s messy and confused like its characters and never fully captures or wrangles the enormity of the issues its trying to confront.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Josh Keown | Night Terror Novels

    Originally posted over at my personal blog site, Night Terror Novels “My stepfather nearly killed my mother, and I used to wish he’d killed me.” – Ramsey Campbell, Somebody’s Voice 🚕I received an e-ARC of this story from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Somebody’s Voice (2021) will publicly release on the 22nd June!🚕 So this was the second ARC I requested and was approved for via NetGalley, and I did so based entirely upon the author – Ramsey Campbell is well-known to me fo Originally posted over at my personal blog site, Night Terror Novels “My stepfather nearly killed my mother, and I used to wish he’d killed me.” – Ramsey Campbell, Somebody’s Voice 🚕I received an e-ARC of this story from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Somebody’s Voice (2021) will publicly release on the 22nd June!🚕 So this was the second ARC I requested and was approved for via NetGalley, and I did so based entirely upon the author – Ramsey Campbell is well-known to me for his stellar contribution to the horror genre, so when I saw this, one of his upcoming releases, was open for requests, I absolutely had to try to get onboard. Somebody’s Voice follows the lives of two wildly different people, as they become increasingly entwined on both a professional and personal level. The relationship between the pair becomes more complex over time, and they realise they may have more in common with one another than they initially thought. Successful crime writer Alex Grand is in hot water professionally, as his latest book release has been widely condemned for its depiction of two extremely sensitive topics; those of child abuse and trans lives. In an effort to save face and rescue his career, Alex’s publishers offer him an olive branch, in the form of a ghostwriting prospect for a memoir of abuse. The survivor and subject of the book is a man named Carl, who was formerly known as Carla, prior to transitioning. As Alex investigates his subject and the book, he finds that certain aspects of Carl’s account may not be so honest, and what he unearths also causes some of his own childhood memories to resurface too. As mentioned, I dove right into this one based on the acclaim and reputation of its writer alone, without knowing anything whatsoever about the narrative, or even what genre it was going to belong to. Ramsey Campbell is, quite indisputably, one of the biggest names and a titan of British horror, science-fiction, and fantasy, an accolade he has held and solidified over a career spanning more than fifty years. He’s an author I’ve loved and respected for such a long time. So it really gives me no joy to say that this book did not live up to his usual high quality affairs whatsoever. Even within the first couple of chapters, I could tell this was going to be an extremely controversial and thoroughly contentious read. Themes of child abuse in Carla’s story, and trans rights in Alex’s, are introduced right from the opening, and these two strands are intertwined closely in the overarching narrative – and its herein, in the joining of these two plots, that the majority of Somebody’s Voice’s problems lie. If you are going to write a book in which trans lives are at the forefront of the story, it is crucial to depict it in a conscientious and respectful way. I don’t think that Somebody’s Voice manages to do that. It’s not just the fact that Carla’s transitioning is directly tied to the themes of childhood abuse (which is problematic on so many levels in itself), its the perpetuation of gendered stereotypes too, of masculinity and femininity, and how certain actions or attributes are suggestive of gender – which I don’t feel I need to say, is a ridiculously outdated viewpoint on gender in this day and age. Scenes like where Alex shakes Carl’s hand, and suggests the daintiness of his handshake is indicative of traces of the feminine in him. Things like this are peppered throughout the narrative, and it’s just so backward. The irony is not lost on me, that this book whose plot concerns an author who mishandles and misrepresents trans issues is, in itself, often disrespectful on the subject. The thing is, even in spite of the triggering topics, in spite of the woeful handling of certain issues, there are glimmers of Campbell’s typical flair for storytelling here, which just makes it all the more infuriating. Campbell really can have an enviable way with words, an aspect that is evident in the way he writes Carla’s side of the story. I thought that the deception of her abuse at the hands of her stepfather as a child was very effectively done – it felt scarily genuine and realistic in a truly terrifying way. I’m not sure exactly which decade Carla’s childhood is supposed to be set in (I can’t recall that it is ever mentioned), but it felt very much like a Britain of somewhere around the 1960s to the 1980s, based upon the way the characters spoke and acted. This section, and the locations it takes place in, is so vividly depicted. Every character in Carla’s story was believable, and often so infuriating, in a most excellent way – what I mean by that, is that their dismissal of Carla’s claims of abuse was gut-wrenching and chilling in its authenticity. From the girl’s mother, to the neighbours and their daughter Bridie, all of them were incredibly well-written, and the way they acted made me furious with how realistic it felt. The abuser in question, Carla’s stepfather Malcolm Randal(l), simply made my skin crawl with his grotesqueness and deplorable acts. Most of the problems with Somebody’s Voice lie in the ‘modern’ half of the book, in Alex’s story. As others have said, the dialogue in this part is needlessly opaque, with pretty much every single character talking in a cryptic way. More than all that though, I just didn’t like Alex as a person at all. He was consistently confrontational with everyone, and was lamentably inept and unprofessional with his publishers and the general public. Carl was also poorly written in this section, and despite wanting to supposedly see justice done, he needlessly sabotaged both his own and Alex’s reliability with some truly outlandish and nonsensical actions. The way these two plot-lines tie into one another is disturbing more in the correlation they seem to imply rather than in the context of the plot itself. To be quite honest, even whilst attempting to process my thoughts on this book and write them down, I still don’t entirely know how I feel about it. I think the best way I can summarize my feelings are as follows; the childhood abuse plot, taken independently, is believable and extremely unsettling. The modern story-line regarding Alex, on the other hand, is confusing and often offensive, with uninteresting characters and wildly unbelievable plot developments. The way these two strands weave together is chaotically jumbled and largely a mess. In my eyes, this is sadly a misstep for author and publisher, both of whom I’ve loved in the past, and who are usually very reliable when it comes to their output. VERDICT: Somebody’s Voice is a very confused and confusing read, in my opinion, which, again, is a little ironic given the plot concerns identity crises and the feeling of not knowing oneself. Despite its triggering subject matter, there are some pretty interesting themes at play, but nothing ever comes together in a significant or meaningful way. Couple that with some offensive depictions of trans lives and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes, and you are left with this; a muddled narrative of some ups and plenty of downs, that doesn’t really have all that much to say on the issues it raises. For now at least, it’s a ⭐⭐💫/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer. I might come back and change that, after thinking on it a while longer. I also want to say a humongous thank you to both the author Ramsey Campbell, publisher Flame Tree Press, and to NetGalley, for providing the ARC and giving me the chance to read and review it early. Book Information Title(s): Somebody’s Voice Author(s): Ramsey Campbell Publisher(s): Flame Tree Press Flame Tree Publishing Original Publication Date: 22nd June, 2021 Page Count: 352 pages Format Read: Digital Advance Review Copy (Y/N): Y Website(s): https://www.flametreepublishing.com/i... http://www.ramseycampbell.com/

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chad Guarino

    “An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro. This is the screaming blurb that greets you on the cover of Somebody's Voice, the latest offering from Liverpudlian horror writer Ramsey Campbell. I'm going to preface this review by stating that I've never read anything by Campbell before and I requested this book solely based off his his glowing reputation in the horror community. However, I believe I was mistaken in starting here. I'm going to be blunt. “An absolute master of modern horror. And a damn fine writer at that” - Guillermo del Toro. This is the screaming blurb that greets you on the cover of Somebody's Voice, the latest offering from Liverpudlian horror writer Ramsey Campbell. I'm going to preface this review by stating that I've never read anything by Campbell before and I requested this book solely based off his his glowing reputation in the horror community. However, I believe I was mistaken in starting here. I'm going to be blunt. Somebody's Voice is an absolute mess of a novel. While I was reading it, I was actively comparing it to rubbernecking at a car crash scene where I was slowly chugging along only due to some sort of morbid interest in what bizarre and implausible turn the narrative would take next. We are introduced to Alex, a "crime" novelist fresh off a book that's been widely panned for its depiction of trans characters. Alex, who has no experience with trans people at all, is then inexplicably chosen to ghost-write a memoir for a trans survivor of child abuse. The narrative follows this by alternating between scenes of Carl's (the subject of the memoir) abusive childhood and Alex's struggles with his publisher and writing. The main problem for me was the portrayal of the two main characters. Carla/Carl is shown to be untrustworthy at best and a villain at worst, and with Alex we have the author trying far to hard to portray an unreliable narrator which results in muddled confusion every time his chapters come up. It eventually becomes completely unclear as to what, if anything, Alex is responsible for throughout the narrative and the dialogue of the characters seems set up purposely to mislead. There are multiple instances of almost dreamlike dialogue between the characters where they seem to make bizarre factual mistakes and misidentify characters and their actions, which I would imagine is Campbell trying to reinforce Alex's unreliability. This would be fine if there were any payoff to the endless red herrings, but...there isn't. The conclusion serves to merely leave the reader wondering if it was worth it to get there. As other reviews have also touched on more eloquently, the depiction of trans characters is absolutely problematic here, something that comes with some unbelievable irony considering Alex's character arc. The book comes off as a bizarre and meta experiment best left on the cutting room floor. I'm not closing the door on Ramsey Campbell based off of this novel, but this was unfortunately not the entry point that a new reader of his should have taken. **I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Flame Tree Press**

  6. 5 out of 5

    Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri

    The more I read from Ramsey Campbell, the more aware I am of three continuing aspects: 1. Although he is not Lovecraftian and instead he is in a category all his own, Mr. Campbell is keenly aware of the world as layered, as if the reality we encounter and experience is but a thinly veiled surface above what is real, akin to a sheet of ice in winter atop an unfrozen lake. His characters,  many of whom appear either schizophrenic or possibly possessors of extremely heightened awareness, often exper The more I read from Ramsey Campbell, the more aware I am of three continuing aspects: 1. Although he is not Lovecraftian and instead he is in a category all his own, Mr. Campbell is keenly aware of the world as layered, as if the reality we encounter and experience is but a thinly veiled surface above what is real, akin to a sheet of ice in winter atop an unfrozen lake. His characters,  many of whom appear either schizophrenic or possibly possessors of extremely heightened awareness, often experience through many senses that Otherness existing just beyond, or below, our consciousness. 2. It seems to me that Parasitism is a frequent recurring theme, appearing often in the scenes where the protagonist "sees beyond." An example in SOMEBODY'S VOICE is writer (and newly ghostwriter) Alex Grand noticing pedestrians on cell phones and considering the phones appearing to be "battening on them," a sort of apparently symbiotic relationship which is in reality as much parasitic,  as say, Cordyceps Fungus in ants. Such reflection from our characters subtly ratchets that chill of intensifying horror, a subtlety at which Mr. Campbell is a past master. 3. Many of his characters,  which is not unlikely given their "ability " to perceive beyond,  experience issues of identity,  their own and others', and concerns of their own mental stability. This is especially prevalent in SOMEBODY'S VOICE, a novel ostensibly dealing with the horrifying reality of hidden child abuse and its ramifications, plus the multilayered complications of transgenderedness in a basically homophobic, closed-minded, reality. All of this is essential to the story; yet, just as Campbell's characters "see below," or "beyond," there is another existence of this story below and beyond and apart from the ostensible story line: Identity. Mirroring. Memory. What do we know? What do we remember? Is Memory malleable? Is Memory what we recall, or what someone else tells us? Can we trust our own "Voice?" Or must we rely on someone else's "Voice?" Ultimately: Who Are We? Caution: The nature of the story line is emotionally difficult and psychologically wrenching. Readers who have experienced any type of child abuse (or adult domestic abuse) directly or through loved ones or friends should be aware that the subject matter is likely to be triggering.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Lind

    I usually quite like Campbell's book, but found this a frustrating and insulting read. The entire running conceit of readers not being able to separate a ghostwriter (which isn't even the write word, as Alex's name is on the book cover right along Carl's) is farfetched and tiring, almost every character is weirdly aggressive with stilted, unrealistically opaque dialogue to drive the confusion between writer and subject even more. The protestors and twitter mob are laughably facile strawmen to th I usually quite like Campbell's book, but found this a frustrating and insulting read. The entire running conceit of readers not being able to separate a ghostwriter (which isn't even the write word, as Alex's name is on the book cover right along Carl's) is farfetched and tiring, almost every character is weirdly aggressive with stilted, unrealistically opaque dialogue to drive the confusion between writer and subject even more. The protestors and twitter mob are laughably facile strawmen to the point of being offensive. And that's before even mentioning how badly this book handles Trans matters. The stereotypes Campbell plays into into this book are dangerous and gross. This isn't about how a cis author shouldn't write Trans characters, that is once again a strawman argument that no one is making. But writers should go into writing the experience of minority and marginalized characters with research and care. This book seems to be attacking the Own Voices movement with utter disregard to what that movement is actually asking for.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elli (Kindig Blog)

    I have not read anything by Ramsey Campbell before, but my research informs me that he is ‘one of the great masters in horror fiction’. His previous books seem to be traditional horror stories containing ghosts, monsters and demons. However, if you are expecting this kind of book from ‘Somebody’s Voice’, I would step away now and read one of his many other stories instead! There are a lot of ironies to reading this book. At the beginning we meet Alex - an author whose books are being boycotted du I have not read anything by Ramsey Campbell before, but my research informs me that he is ‘one of the great masters in horror fiction’. His previous books seem to be traditional horror stories containing ghosts, monsters and demons. However, if you are expecting this kind of book from ‘Somebody’s Voice’, I would step away now and read one of his many other stories instead! There are a lot of ironies to reading this book. At the beginning we meet Alex - an author whose books are being boycotted due to his poor handling of child abuse and transgender issues within its narrative. Somebody’s Voice seems to have gotten a lot of low-star reviews on Goodreads, most stating Campbell’s bad handling of transgender issues within the book. Also ironic is the fact that Alex is described as a proof-reader - he edits typos on the boycott placards that are being waved against him. This entire book is in dire need of a proof-read and a good edit itself. I understand that I was given an ARC copy, however having read over 300 ARCs now I am used to poor formatting or the occasional typo. There are a lot of sentences in this book that make no sense, for example: ‘And are we to be to what took you there?’. These are littered throughout the book and are really jarring and confusing. I really hope that these will be corrected before the publishing date in a month’s time. There are also a lot of plot points in Somebody’s Voice which make no sense and as such make the book feel completely unrealistic. For example, I don’t understand why a publisher would choose an author whose books are currently being boycotted for bad handling of child abuse and transgender issues to ghost-write a memoir for a transgender person on their experience of child abuse. I also didn’t understand why Alex was ghost-writing the book and yet his name is on the cover, he is invited to all the press events and even interrupts those events multiple times to talk about how he wrote the book. It was also so frustrating that no-one in the book seemed to understand how writing works. Friends, family and strangers all assumed for some reason that Alex was writing about his own experiences which made no sense. If I help write a biography for Katie Price, for example, no-one would even dream to think that I was actually Katie Price – I’d just be an author being paid to help write a biography. The book alternates chapters between author Alex and extracts from the book he is writing which focuses on Carl/Carla’s childhood experiences. I felt these chapters were really well written and engaging. They are of course hard to read and deal with very sensitive subject matter, but the characters were so realistically frustrating and those chapters really transported you back to another time when religion was at the forefront and children were seen but not heard. However, I don’t really feel that the transgender elements were explored in this at all. Carl seems to make their choice to transition solely based on seeing an old friend make the change themselves. This comes out of no-where and it feels a bit like wanting to follow the latest fashion trend rather than a deep-seated unhappiness with the gender Carl was born into. I feel that the book would have been a lot stronger if it had just focussed on the child abuse rather than the author trying to write about something he has no experience in. The chapters that feature Alex are quite frankly a mess. I understand that the author is trying to be clever and the whole thing feels very ‘meta’. There are times when characters completely mistake something simple in a conversation in a way that is not at all realistic. I went through so many ideas as to what was really happening – was Carl not a real person at all? Just an alter-ego for Alex? Was Carl using Alex to get back at him for his previous book? Was Lee actually just Alex? By the end everything was spiralling out of control but the conclusion did nothing for me. I still don’t really understand the truth of what was going on. The final chapter also throws up a lot of uncomfortable questions about what it means to be transgender – it isn’t a virus you can catch or an identity you can just put on whenever you fancy! Overall, Somebody’s Voice is a mess – the author is trying to be clever but ends up just insulting and confusing his readers. Thank you to NetGalley & Flame Tree Press for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review. For more of my reviews check out www.kindig.co.uk

  9. 5 out of 5

    Keith Ravenscroft

    My first encounter with Ramsey Campbell came courtesy of a monthly catalogue from the now defunct but oh-so memorable Fantasy Centre on the Holloway Road in London. Later in life I would finally get to meet the two very amiable chaps who ran the store (with a big size travel back in hand). The title of that book was The Doll Who Ate His Mother. I bought it because of the grotesque title, the author at this time unknown to me. Over the last 40 or so years I have now read almost all of Campbell’s f My first encounter with Ramsey Campbell came courtesy of a monthly catalogue from the now defunct but oh-so memorable Fantasy Centre on the Holloway Road in London. Later in life I would finally get to meet the two very amiable chaps who ran the store (with a big size travel back in hand). The title of that book was The Doll Who Ate His Mother. I bought it because of the grotesque title, the author at this time unknown to me. Over the last 40 or so years I have now read almost all of Campbell’s fiction and non-fiction, and each book is more than just a simple ‘horror story’, they are slow and have psychological depth, some are not easy to unravel, and I like that with Ramsey’s books. They touch notes of claustrophobic fear, and traps sprung by situations. Some of his novels like The Last Voice They Hear and The One Safe Place (an economically depressed inner-city neighborhood) are dark and horrific. From his supernatural and Lovecraftian tales he sometimes takes us through worlds of urban madness and chaos. And now, like he did with Silent Children, he takes us onto a new courageous path into the world of child abuse but with bizarre twists and turns and an uneasy ending. He loves to play on our fears of unease and mistrustful paranoia about outsiders. In this day and age, he has taken a certain amount of courage to write this. And reading some of the fanatical reviews of this book by certain folk who sadly get into a huff at the thought of anything they think will disturb so-called path of reasoning. How sad is it that someone would abandon a book or film for the thought of it making them feel insecure? The book is excellent. A slow yet fine read and it deals with the subject matter in a unique way. As for the reviews I’ve been reading, well…… All the darkness this age has fought to dispel comes down hard now. Things we could say, we must now think twice over or can’t any more. Aspiring young writers must surely be very cautious now before using whatever of their imagination remains. Dare we write what we think without being dissected, unconnected, or cancelled? How long before the book-burning starts? Surely, we can still discuss, or is that beyond reason? Must we hate? Can we not just love? Must we agree and not speak. It used to come from the right, but now it seems to be coming from the left. Whatever happened to peace and love? There comes a time in our journey when we turn around and start to walk back the way we have come. Backs to the future. Seems that time is now. I’d rather binge old dramas than watch BBC at present. Such a pleasant treat in these dark days. We are no longer rocking in the free world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rajiv

    [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] “Somebody’s voice” is so twisted that it left me speechless. I feel it’s one of the best psychologically creepy novels I have read this year. I have read quite a few of the author’s previous famous works, where he dabbles into the paranormal and supernatural. This book is not that, so you will be disappointed if you expect a gory horror novel. This book, however, is psychologically creepy and frightening and relates more to th [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] “Somebody’s voice” is so twisted that it left me speechless. I feel it’s one of the best psychologically creepy novels I have read this year. I have read quite a few of the author’s previous famous works, where he dabbles into the paranormal and supernatural. This book is not that, so you will be disappointed if you expect a gory horror novel. This book, however, is psychologically creepy and frightening and relates more to the horrors of what the human mind can perceive. However, this book is not for everyone. It has themes of child abuse, and I don’t think it would be everyone’s cup of tea. The author does relate his classic style of writing, where he sets the pace in a slow-burn fashion. We get two storylines, one of Alex, who is ghostwriting a memoir for Carl, and Carla (Carl’s childhood), who talks about the horrors of her childhood. As the story progresses, you slowly start to see both the storyline merge and blur the entire cast of characters. I honestly loved the second half of the book because you don’t know what is happening or who to trust. Some highlights of the book were the catechism incident at the restaurant and when the police make an arrest. This book is probably one of the few where the plot completely engrossed me more than the characters (although there were characters like Randal who creeped me out). Overall, I have to say that this book surpassed my expectations and made me appreciate the author on a grander level. “Somebody’s Voice” is one of those stories people will love or despise, and I loved reading it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    Let me begin this review by saying how much I LOVE Ramsey Campbell. He is truly a master of the horror genre and many of his books are on my bookshelf. I did not even read anything about this book other than who the author was and immediately requested the eARC from NetGalley. Campbell did not disappoint with his eloquent use of the English language and he is a true storyteller. This book deals with an crime novelist who writes about a character who suffered abuse as a child who transitioned as Let me begin this review by saying how much I LOVE Ramsey Campbell. He is truly a master of the horror genre and many of his books are on my bookshelf. I did not even read anything about this book other than who the author was and immediately requested the eARC from NetGalley. Campbell did not disappoint with his eloquent use of the English language and he is a true storyteller. This book deals with an crime novelist who writes about a character who suffered abuse as a child who transitioned as an adult. This causes the author a good amount of backlash because the author was neither a survivor of abuse not a member of the trans community. His publishing company wants to help the author atone for his faux pas by ghost writing a memoir for an individual who did survive abuse and who is a member of the trans community. Unfortunately, this partnership leads to a story that may not be entirely true. This results in many questions of how people remember events (in particular traumatic events) and how those memories impact others. Campbell’s prose is always a delight to read, but there was some confusion as to what actually happened that never fully gets resolved which left me wanting for more. Trigger warning: there are descriptions of childhood sexual abuse which may be disturbing for some readers.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Downey

    The latest novel from Bram Stoker Awards winner Ramsey Campbell is a mystery almost up until its final pages. Campbell does a real job of getting the reader to scratch their head and wondering if we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. We follow the journey of Alex, an author who has been tasked ghost writing the life story of Carl, a man who has transitioned from being a woman after being abused as a child. This was quite a difficult read to begin with as we are taken through Carl’s memories i The latest novel from Bram Stoker Awards winner Ramsey Campbell is a mystery almost up until its final pages. Campbell does a real job of getting the reader to scratch their head and wondering if we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. We follow the journey of Alex, an author who has been tasked ghost writing the life story of Carl, a man who has transitioned from being a woman after being abused as a child. This was quite a difficult read to begin with as we are taken through Carl’s memories in graphic detail in some cases. It is interesting to see an author tackle transgenderism when attributed to historical sexual abuse. Things do become quite convoluted as things progress and the lines between Alex and Carl become blurry and it will certainly put anyone off becoming a ghost writer anytime soon. Carl is quite a difficult character to empathise with despite the abuse claims, as his vagueness of most things and projecting onto Alex becomes quite infuriating. Alex on the other hand exists in a grey area with some chapters allowing us into his world whereas others he appears quite distant and forgetful. Somebody’s Voice is an intriguing read for the most part but it will certainly require patience to get through some of its slower chapters.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Farida Yasser

    Wow, that was soooooo disappointing.. The book started strong and promising, i felt so hooked even though the topic wasn't my cup of tea, i was really curious how Alex and Carl's lives would intervene with each other,, but then the downward spiral began. The events and dialogues felt forced and contrived, and the book was in a dire need of editing, as it was a little bit vague in some places. Overall, i didn't like it. *Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange of an Wow, that was soooooo disappointing.. The book started strong and promising, i felt so hooked even though the topic wasn't my cup of tea, i was really curious how Alex and Carl's lives would intervene with each other,, but then the downward spiral began. The events and dialogues felt forced and contrived, and the book was in a dire need of editing, as it was a little bit vague in some places. Overall, i didn't like it. *Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review*

  14. 5 out of 5

    Angela Switzer

    Hated it. Book contains depictions of childhood sexual abuse. Did not finish.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sean Graham

    I've read a few Ramsey Campbell novels now and enjoyed them, however, this one I did not. Clunky writing, lazy editing and issues with the depiction of trans characters. It's a nope from me. I've read a few Ramsey Campbell novels now and enjoyed them, however, this one I did not. Clunky writing, lazy editing and issues with the depiction of trans characters. It's a nope from me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Margin of Terror

    DNF. This is the first book I’ve not finished in 31 years. I skipped ahead hoping I was wrong, but Mr. Campbell disappointed me in exactly the way I was dreading. He’s used tired and harmful tropes and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the trans community. Ironically, he’s done the same thing his main character has at the beginning of the novel, only in doing so he is actively promoting ideas and stereotypes that have hurt the trans community for decades.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ian Duff

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lira

  20. 5 out of 5

    Curtis

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Summers

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ian Dodd

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Wilbanks

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Cooper

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cat Evans

  27. 5 out of 5

    KENNETH BOSTWICK

  28. 5 out of 5

    Neil McRobert

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lucio Terzani

  31. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

  32. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Condello

  33. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

  34. 5 out of 5

    Raomer

  35. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  36. 4 out of 5

    Scott Neumann

  37. 4 out of 5

    Riley

  38. 4 out of 5

    Ava

  39. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  40. 5 out of 5

    Jacquesworth

  41. 5 out of 5

    Allison Whitney

  42. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  43. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

  44. 4 out of 5

    Chloé

  45. 4 out of 5

    lucy

  46. 4 out of 5

    Lucio Terzani

  47. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Hogmire

  48. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  49. 4 out of 5

    Poetniknowit

  50. 4 out of 5

    Myan

  51. 4 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

  52. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

  53. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Brami

  54. 5 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

  55. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  56. 5 out of 5

    Grant

  57. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Trivett

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