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James Lovegrove

Phoenix Original Fiction

UK Trade Paperback Original

ISBN 0-75380-228-7

329 pages; £6.99 ($15.95)

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 1999



Science Fiction, General Fiction, Horror

08-22-02, 12-13-02, 05-23-03

Fear is a funny thing. The sources of fear in horror fiction are typically not sources of fear in our everyday lives. Horror fiction offers up supernatural monsters and serial killers. Life puts forth job loss, bankruptcy, and homelessness. Our daily economic fears are rarely the subject of horror fiction. 'Days', by James Lovegrove, has at its core economic fears and financial terror. Of course, these are both often wellsprings of natural, as opposed to supernatural, violence.

'Days' is the name of "the first (and some still say) foremost gigastore". The novel opens slowly and contemplatively. Imagine Nathaniel Hawthorne having as his subject not the House of Seven Gables but instead a department store the size of a theme park. Frank Hubble is about to start his last day at Days. He's suffering from some image problems -- he can't see his reflection in the mirror. He's been at Days for thirty years and his routine has for all intents and purposes turned him into a robot. He's employed as a Ghost, a member of the Tactical Security Team who watches the shoppers and incarcerates criminals. Linda and Gordon Trivett are about to start their first day at Days. After scrimping and saving for five years, they've managed to accumulate enough money to buy a Silver card, which will gain them access to Days, where they will be allowed to spend their money.

Once Frank begins his workday and the Trivetts are inside, 'Days' picks up the pace, all the while keeping the Kafka-esque atmosphere. Lovegrove builds his characters well, including the seven brothers who run days from the top floor. The number seven is important in 'Days'; each chapter is preceded by an epigraph, which reveals another historical facet of the number seven. And Septimus Days, father of the seven men who now run the store, was himself a seventh son; the youngest owner, the dissolute 'Sonny' is that mythical beast, the seventh son of the seventh son.

Particularly interesting is Frank's job as a 'ghost', and the training the created him. In order to blend in, he trained to erase his own personality. He and the other ghosts are barely alive in any normal sense. In fact, the only sign of life within them is their ability to spend the money they make at Days. When that economic raison d'être is threatened by Frank's decision to leave his job, a fundamental, almost Lovecraftian gulf is revealed yawning beneath him. It's ultimate fear and freedom mixed together until they are indistinguishable. There is mortal terror in 'Days' as well; fear of loss of life, but it pales compared to the economic depths portrayed. 'Days' is a clever and imaginative take on the consumer mindset. It's not a typical horror novel, and is all the better for the difference.