In the ruins of a haunted medieval abbey, four musicians hope to tap into the site's dark history. The experience almost destroys them. Years later, the original group is forced to return to the abbey, to confront the old evil they discovered…
©1994 Phil Rickman (P)2012 Isis Publishing Ltd
In the best British tradition of the Christmas ghost story, Rickman creates a spookily atmospheric tale of a medieval Welsh abbey which has a history of horrific December deaths and accidents dating from the 12th century to the present. The cast of characters revolve around a group of aging rockers who are the survivors of a disastrous recording session in the abbey studio on 12/8/1980, which also happens to be the day the former Beatle, John Lennon, was shot to death outside his Manhattan apartment building, an event which plays a significant role in the unfolding of the story.
Be forewarned that the prologue and the first few chapters are confusing and quite difficult to follow as the narrative washes between epochs and characters, none of which are familiar to the reader as yet. These characters and events begin to sort themselves out as the book takes on a more straight-forward narrative approach as the book progresses.
Sean Barrett's narration is excellently suited to the material and this audio version is enhanced by riffs from songs purportedly recorded in the abbey sessions.
A wonderfully dark tale for the nights of the winter solstice.
Read it and u will see what I mean. My impressions are that the author builds a tense& somewhat creepy atmosphere, and characters are at least 3-D. U do feel something for their struggles. You could say this story is about 4 naive 60's liberals getting scared somewhat straighter.
Not the audiobook. Narration is hamfisted and the music to add drama is embarrassing.
Have read others but not listened
It's heavy handed. Groans and screams etc are over acted.
Possibly if directed by right person
The first 50 minutes of the audiobook is almost unlistenable. It is a chaotic mix of visions and terrible Celtic music interruptions and I nearly gave up on it as I tried to remember why I had liked the book so much when I read it over 10 years ago. It eventually settles into a more traditional narrative but the occasional further bursts of bad Celtic music that are there to "add to the mood" are amateur and annoying.
The Deus ex machina ending to the story is disappointing and does not close all the loose ends that the plot and the final scenes build up to.
I am a fan of Phil Rickman. The story is my kind of dark mysterious tale
I'm sure this won't get posted. I'm still trying to finish the book .I finally had to buy the ebook for my Iphone so I could sort the story out. That worked well, until the syncing failed to work. I now have spent $20 and the ebook is wandering around out there (who knows where?) and I am pretty sure I will love this book if I can ever wade through it. BTW, I don't like your cook-book approach to reviewing.
Living in Northern NJ. Addicted to that spine-tingling rush of fear.
Narrator has a heavy accent - struggled to understand it. This was complicated by a discombobulated story line....ugh...
"Interwoven with the Abbey Recording."
First read this back in the 1990s, re-read it over the years, pestered Isis to bring out audio version. Brilliant then and brilliant now. Foxtara's review is correct there's lots I don't remember reading. But never missed anything listening to Sean Barratt's superb narration. Loved the way the Abbey music is interwoven throughout. The stories of Prof, Moria and Simon continue into the Merrily Series. Hopefully Isis will also publish Man in the Moss, Crybbe, Chalice and Candlelight where other Merrily characters first take to the stage.
"Brilliantly Haunting Novel"
Reading 'December' was a wonderful, if scary, experience. It grabs your attention from the beginning to end. But as much as you enjoy it to the very end, beware!, because there is more to come. On re-reading the novel, you will find bits you missed, no matter how closely you paid attention the first time. Because, there is a lot of depth to Rickman's books, never lay them too far aside once finished because they will fascinate you time and again. Following the members of the band 'Philosopher's Stone through their eerie encounters, which are fraught with danger,- in an old Abbey which is mostly in ruins, will have you looking over your shoulders.
I am at times a jaded horror reader, but 'December' spooked me, this is because the story is credible, the characters well rounded and realistic, the writing is superb. It is sad to reach the last page when you want it to carry on with further amazing gutwrenching experiences. But happily not only can you reread the book, but you can also listen to the tracks the band laid down in their recording sessions, once lost, now brilliantly restored, on the accompanying CD Album, or download it from Amazon or iTunes, Philosophers Stone, 'Abbey Tapes: The Exorcism'. I give the album five stars too, and highly recommend it along with the book.
"Magical Mystery Tour"
'The Philosophers Stone' were a folk rock super group brought together not just for their musical talents, but also for their physic abilities - to record a concept album in a haunted abbey. Inevitably the experiment goes wrong and the recording ends in tragic consequences - while at the exact same moment on a different continent, Mark Chapman's finger tightens on the trigger to gun down John Lennon. Coincidence? There's no such thing in a Phil Rickman novel. `December' picks up the story fourteen years later when the supposedly destroyed tapes turn up and the band are persuaded to reunite in order to finish what has been whispered about in musical circles as the infamous `Black Album'.
A major part of the novel deals with the dysfunctional lives the musicians have led since the original recording session. Each of them having suffered from the psychic fallout that has tainted their lives in the intervening years. This is where Rickman works like an demented anatomist in reverse, layering flesh and sinew to his characters, infusing them with a life force so strong they could walk among us undetectable as fictional personalities. Music is the dominant driving force in this novel which maybe accounts for the way the tale plays out fluidly across a score full of hair raising Glissando slides and broad chromatic sweeps across the ever changing time signature of the plot. Think of this book as `Phil Rickman the Musical' taking you on his own version of a `Magical Mystery Tour'. McCartney may have been the Beatle who sang about wanting to be a `Paperback Writer' but it's Lennon who gets the last word in this book.
In this form Phil Rickman is unbeatable. A real chart topper in every sense.
"Phil Rickman read by Sean Barrett- heaven"
Fantastically creepy Rickman story. But that doesn't describe the world that Rickman creates. Its funny and real and fascinating. There are supernatural goings on in the life of rock musicians and vicars and and a stellar cast of characters so real that you'll be glad they reappear in other books.
Sean Barrett is uniquely gifted in bringing Rickman's characters to life, so much so that you feel you have a whole cast instead of the one incredibly talented man. And Barrett seems to GET Rickman, not one ironic aside is thrown away - no laughs lost, whilst the dark suspense is also ratcheted up
.Still got part three to listen to.Bliss.
Loads of Rickman books to come if you're new to him and you'll want to come back with him to Welsh Border country soon.
Got to say too,Rickman writes sizeable books, so many happy listening hours.value for money!
I found this story hard work I felt like something was missing at the beginning the band that return back to the haunted abbey had a bad experience the first time round but the book does not tell you enough of what happened and I was lost with it very slow and confusing but it did pick up a little towards the end of the book just a little disappointed thought it would be more scary it wasn't.
"Needs an ending"
Although far fetched, the story was fine. Strands ran along and you might imagine would be drawn together in the final chapter. You should hold no such hope. We simply arrive at an outcome with no atttempt to flesh out the reasons as to why matters should have resolved themselves in that way.
"A Magical Mystical Tour of MusicBusiness' Darkside"
I enjoyed listening to December and will definately listen to it again.
The narrator has such skill to bring the writer characters to life. Mr Barrett does not so much than merely read the story, he acts as a conduit for the characters to live through.
The story is very twisting and around every turn there is a mystical mystery that builds until the ultimate mystery of who will survive - if any one! - is solved.
It is hard to pick a favourite character - they were all so interall to the story, from the evil to the ghostly.
But here are my feeling on some of the main characters:
Dave - honest anguish and guilt, combined with such deep love
Moira - sweet and not all that innocent, combined with ignorance and bitterness
Simon - confused seeker, with a heart of gold
Tom - strangled by his own pain and the pain of others, haunted in the worst sense
Vanessa - innocent, truthful and like a peace angel
Prof - dry and straight as a die, dumped in the deepend and paddling like mad to try and keep his head!
Eddy - cunning, but honest and caring
Weasel - loyal to a fault to his best friend and beyond the very end to his Princess (*sob*)
I could keep listing the rest of the characters and telling you why I thought they were brilliant, but I think the best is for you to discover them yourself.
The story is full of brilliant, searing with colour, scenes.
A few stand out: Prof and the tapes - the finding, the baking (with Morris), the listening; the dinner table massacre; the candle scene between Simon and Moira (for its emotional content); the fiery ending to match the fiery start!
The scene where Weasel and Vanessa "part ways", but his concern when, it was too late, that spills over into his guiding her with her grandfather to the relative safety of the new Vicarage was very moving and drew a tear for him.
This a a brilliant book. (I read it back in 1994 when it came out.) And this audio version has made it an even more enjoyable (with all the living characters).
"Enjoyed this more than I expected to .."
After listening to the first half hour or so I nearly gave up on this, but I carried on with it and enjoyed it more than I had expected to. As a fan of Merrily Watkins books was nice to get a bit of background info on Prof Levin. Found the plot a little repetitive by the end but some great well written characters along the way. Found the bits of music annoying and unnecessary tad creepy and not in way that fitted with the story! Enjoyed the narrator and the way he read whole passages in character not just the stuff in speech marks. OK he accents got a bit mixed up once or twice but some very convincing accents and Lennon voice - I'll say no more about that in case of spoiling plot. Worth a go even if you are a Merrily fan.
This is the first Phil Rickman novel I've read so I don't know how this compares to his other works. It is a very long audiobook (3 substantial download files) and while I wouldn't say i was board or that it is padded-out, it did feel very long. I suppose this is because there are several narrative strands, as other reviewers have mentioned, and each one is very detailed. I found them all interesting - some more than others. I didn't know where the narrative was going to end-up, which is a good thing, and I was interested enough to want to find out what happens, but I'm puzzled that some reviewers were 'scared' by novel.
"A bit grim"
I know it's supposed to be spooky but I found it overly gory with not much in the way of suspense. The only character I really liked was Vanessa. The rest felt like stereotypes. The disappointment was that a band do psychics didn't predict the ending a lot sooner.
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