"All Hail the House Gods" Book Review
Written by Matt E. Lewis
Published by StrangeHouse Books
Written by Andrew J. Stone
2018, 134 pages, Fiction
Released on June 29th, 2018
Picture it: you live in a grim dystopian village. You are taught from birth that the only purpose you have is to be a breeding machine, to eke out a meager existence, and appease the magnanimous gods who live on the other side of the bridge. After a life centered on mating with your partner, you conceive, and allow the powers-that-be to raise your child with the same programming. Then the fateful day comes, when your child is chosen to appease the gods, to sacrifice their life for the good of the many. You watch them walk away from you, cross the bridge, and enter the heavy oak door of the colonial craftsman as they were taught.
That’s right, these gods are not aliens or monsters, but sentient houses brought to life through some forgotten alchemy. After the House God War decimated the known world, humans now exist as subservient to these House Gods, living their lives only at their whim. The book opens with the story of Kurt and Katie, a couple similar to the one described above, who live their lives blindly accepting of their fate as housing fodder until the day they are forced to sacrifice their firstborn. Even though he is lost, Katie is gripped with a strange sadness that she had not exhibited ever before. At first, Kurt can’t understand where this bizarre sentiment is coming from, but still supports her even as Katie gathers her neighbors into a secret resistance cell to plot the destruction of their low-financed lords. Eventually, it’s her conviction that overrides Kurt’s programming and pushes him to pursue his own mission to undermine the deity dwellings. Following up on rumors that there are House Gods that don’t eat people, can Kurt help his wife and the others defeat their mansion masters, or is this a setup framed in pine and drywall?
Puns aside, All Hail the House Gods is a goofy twist on a dark concept that lands well with the reader. As with his previous book, The Mortuary Monster, Andrew J. Stone doesn’t shy away from lurid descriptions when needed. Taking the enslaved-human-race trope and making a left turn departure like this keeps the story fresh and adds depth to the plot without getting too serious about it. Particular attention is devoted to the description of the House Gods, as it becomes clear from descriptions of 19th century Gothic buttresses, Corinthian columns and one-story ranches that a good amount of architectural research went into this book.
This novella also resonates on the human level, as the relationship between Katie and Kurt (which was intended to be purely functional) evolves to a level of empathy and trust that most would exploit for cheap emotional catharsis. Instead, Stone really digs into what it must be like to exist in this world, the control of feelings and leaps of faith these people need to take when facing such insurmountable odds. I suppose a lesson that could be taken from the book that when it comes to parents and their children, even the danger of opposing unstoppable juggernauts cannot dissolve their bond. A lifetime’s worth of programming and the might of a powerful system can be overcome in order to keep families together and oppose what isn’t right.
If you like your bizarro horror stories dark, fantastical and funny (à la the movie Time Bandits), check out All Hail the House Gods, a quick and well-written summer read for weirdos.
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