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Psycho, by Robert Bloch Book Review | SFReader.com
Psycho, by Robert Bloch Genre: Horror Publisher: Ibooks Published: 1959 Review Posted: 1/22/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10
Psycho, by Robert Bloch
Book Review by Jeff Edwards
Have you read this book?
Norman Bates loves his Mother. Most people think she's been dead for the past twenty years, but Norman knows better.
Ever since he was released from the hospital, he has lived with Mother in the old house, up on the hill above the Bates Motel.
One rainy night, when a beautiful woman exits the highway and checks into the motel, Norman can't help spying on her as she
undresses - but Mother is there, to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. Mother is there, with her butcher knife.
Psycho, originally published in 1959, is a fascinating portrait of madness. Robert Bloch sets the reader on edge from
the very first page, as he describes Norman sitting in the parlor "with a good book for company" - a book describing Incan warriors using the corpse of an enemy for their drumbeat: "[T]he skin had been flayed and the belly stretched to form a drum."
One could argue that Bloch performed a similar kind of primitive surgery on a crime novel, hacking away at one type of genre fiction so that it could be twisted into something else, something far more sinister. On the surface, Psycho is about a woman who steals $40,000 in a misguided attempt to help her fiance get out of debt. After she disappears, her sister and her fiance become suspicious, and they cooperate with an investigator to uncover the truth. But this is all just Bloch's excuse to populate the stage with some characters and open the curtain on his masterpiece, Norman Bates. Alternately meek and overconfident, racked by debilitating guilt but capable of heinous acts, Norman is both Mother's prisoner and her captor. "I think perhaps all of us go a little crazy at times," he says.
Bloch's novel was the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie, of course; that is the book's blessing and its curse. The enduring popularity of Hitchcock's film assured the novel's longevity, and yet the iconic status of Psycho, the movie, has forever diluted the shock and impact of Psycho, the book. In some ways, Bloch was more honest with his audience than Hitchcock was. Hitchcock began his film like a straightforward thriller, then pulled the rug out from under the viewer and revealed that this was a new kind of psychological horror movie. Bloch let his readers know immediately that there was something rotten in the Bates Motel, and that any characters wandering off the highway to that isolated spot would be snaring themselves in a spider web, with Norman and Mother poised at the center.
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