This one has been out for a while but it’s still worth a read. As Dean Wesley Smith likes to point out, books aren’t produce; they won’t spoil. When the book arrived in the mail, I was on my way back to work after meeting my wife for lunch and had stopped by the post office. I decided to read it on my lunch breaks. That didn’t happen for two reasons. One, I keep having to run errands during lunch, and two, I was just too drawn into the story to be able to read only a short number of pages every few days.
The idea of a house where each room contains a world or a passage to a world isn’t new. James Stoddard used it in The High House and The False House, just to give one example. And while Stoddard’s books had some creepy moments, The World House does them one better.
This house is not one you want to live in. In fact, it’s basically a prison. I’m not giving away anything by saying that; the cover copy mentions a prisoner waiting for a door to be unlocked.
I’ll mention some, but not all, of the things you find in the house. There’s a Snakes and Ladders game painted on the floor of the nursery; when you step on it, it becomes three dimensional and the snakes are alive. There’s a chapel with blood-thirsty cherubs. The bathroom has an ocean in it. (No, nothing has backed up.) Various rooms have taxidermy, which can come to life. The library has a book about each person’s life, unless of course the book worms eat your volume. And let’s not forget the cannibals…
For a novel of this length, Adams includes a large number of characters, roughly a dozen or so, depending on how you want to delineate between major and minor characters. Not all of them make it to the end. Still, he does a good job of making them individuals, and some are deliciously evil. They come from the late 1800s to the early 2000s, and all of them entered the house the same way. They fell through a box.
There’s a small Chinese box. If you find yourself in a life threatening situation, say about to get the crap beaten out of you by a loan shark, or being chased by your fiance who has taken you somewhere isolated so he can rape you, and you happen to be in contact with the box…well, you just fall in. Once you do, you’ll find yourself somewhere in the house.
The characters try survive and figure out how to get home. The box is known in the real world, and a few have managed to make it back. And of course, there are people who are searching for the box for reasons of their own.
I’m not going to try to summarize the plot lines involving the characters any more than I have, which I realize isn’t much. I’ll just say that who the heroes and villains are may surprise you. And that’s one of the satisfying things about this novel. Adams doesn’t do the obvious with the characters, and there are hidden relationships between some of the characters which aren’t revealed until the final pages.
This one was a lot of fun. Adams has a wonderfully dark and twisted imagination, especially when it comes to populating the rooms of the house. Half the fun was seeing what he would throw at the reader next. Even though the story isn’t over, I thought for the most part he did a fine job tying up all loose ends for the first half. The second part of the tale, Restoration, is sitting on my desk at work. I’ll be starting it soon.