Following the spooky plan of a charismatic classmate, five British schoolmates entomb themselves; when the promised third-day release fails to materialize, they . . . complain.
Author Burt, who turned out this short work in 1993, at age 18 (he’s since published two more in the UK), seems to have known enough about adolescent phobic fantasies and basement architecture to secure a place in the teenage terror hall of fame. There’s already a movie (released in the UK) and a Web site about the movie (theholemovie.com). And the publisher is busy mentioning The Hole in the same breath as Lord of the Flies and The Collector. But readers hoping for the meaningful terror and satisfying suffocation will have to bring their own baggage to the basement. Minimalism rules in The Hole. On the Nameless Campus of a Posh Public School, Alex, Liz, Geoff, Frankie, and Mike (no last names here) agree more or less as a prank to climb down a rope ladder into an unused and out-of-the-way subterranean vault for a three-day lock-in, with mysterious and rather dominating fellow student Martyn holding the key. the students reveal next to nothing about themselves as the batteries start to fade and the water gets low. Only Liz and Mike exhibit a bit of gumption, beginning to see where Martyn has been leading them. If he has, in fact, been leading them. What it is that Martyn may or may not be up to is to be deduced not only from the grumblings underground, but from the disjointed reminiscences of a narrator who may or may not have survived The Hole. It’s all very choppy and no doubt pleasing to young minds steeped in the dislocation of MTV and the portentous lyrics of the most advanced pop music forms, but it does eventually end. Mercifully, if not surprisingly.
Bleak but not horrifying. (Bram Stoker can rest easy.) Will probably be clutched to the bosoms of professionally moody young people whose parents could never understand.