Adams, Guy -- The World House

I love the "weird surreal infinite house" genre of fantasy. I flat-out love it. James Stoddard, Kit Manson, John Bellairs, Patricia McKillip, Mark Z. Danielewski -- just off the top of my head. Zelazny did it once, and he was riffing on William Hope Hodgson. I love that the TARDIS partakes of the Weird House. I keep coming back to it in my own IF work.

The World House is a Weird House novel that I couldn't manage to enjoy. I think I wanted it to be a species of fantasy that it just isn't. It is a character drama, and it spends a long time introducing wodges of characters to bounce the focal-point character off of. This means (a) you spend more than half the book meeting people who are apparently in unrelated plot threads, and (b) there really isn't a protagonist at all. People explore the house, but any association you have with any of them is fragile and temporary. Also, there are little interludes about aliens or demons or something in Earth history which don't seem to fit in at all.

The story eventually coalesces, but not in a way that makes you think "Ah, I should have seen this coming!" That's the kind of fantasy it isn't. Nor is it the kind where you can just enjoy the wacky (or creepy) architecture. There are clear indications that It Makes Some Kind Of Sense, but the Sense winds up coming out of the blue (or black) and was not satisfying to me. The world-building was neither poetically nor logically sound, I guess I'm saying, and I need one or the other. Also, I need a protagonist.

All that said, the architecture is both wacky and creepy. The character writing is pretty good, if I can tell from characters I wasn't engaged with -- the voice shifts from viewpoint to viewpoint, in a way which is not over-the-top. (Exception: the obsessive-compulsive kid. She was annoying. If I had liked the book, I might have bought it as realistically annoying.) The non-viewpoint characters are mostly over-the-top stereotypes, but they're drawn from a range of time periods so the contrast is appropriate. The plot, as we finally see it, ends with a big bang and a sequel hook. If you are into this kind of book, you will probably be happy with this one. I know that's a near-contentless thing to say; sorry.

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