"The House that Fell from the Sky" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Oblivion Publishing
Written by Patrick Delaney
2020, 444 pages, Fiction
Released on 1 September 2020
Patrick Delaney’s The House that Fell from the Sky has an intriguing opening; 29-year-old Scarlett Vantassel is having a crisis of confidence over her moderately successful horror YouTube channel, in which she reviews books and discusses all things supernatural. ‘Sinister Scarlett’ is seriously thinking of jacking it all in and returning to her small-town home of Silvers Hollow to regroup. The young woman appears to be a personal crossroads and with a heavy heart is contemplating recording her last ever post. Upon returning home she reconnects with her older brother Tommy and her two best friends and long-term couple Jackson and Hannah.
Many of the stronger elements of The House that Fell from the Sky revolve around the complicated and engaging friendship between the four main characters. Scarlett is the star of the show and is a personable lead, however, the other three also have considerable page time and the non-supernatural aspect of the story looks at their relationships as they approach thirty. In a roundabout way all four are internally asking themselves the big question: ‘What have I done with my life?’ There is a sense of unspoken unfulfillment which the book both repeatedly returns to and feeds of.
The overwhelming problem with this novel was its length. Amazon lists it as 444 pages and to be completely frank, it feels considerably longer. I found myself having to take a couple of breaks before returning for another go, reading shorter stuff in the periods away. Perhaps other readers will have more patience than I, however, we pass 50% of the novel (well over 200-pages) before anybody genuinely enters the house and this is exasperatingly slow.
The title The House that fell Fell the Sky gives a big clue to what the major event early in the novel is. Quite literally, without any explanation, a massive house falls from the sky and plants itself in the middle of Silver Hollows, destroying and killing everything which stood there previously. The build up towards this bizarre event is atmospherically handled, as is the sense of belief as the small city finds itself at the centre of an unprecedented worldwide media uproar.
Whilst Scarlett is getting reacquainted with Hannah, Jackson, and Tommy, the story moves too slowly and the frequent flashbacks to when she previously lived in Silver Hollows are both unnecessary and disjointed. It could easily lose 100 pages, perhaps more, from its overall length, becoming a much speedier and accessible read. All four characters have their personal demons and much of your enjoyment of this book will hinge on how you connect with the soap opera of their lives and their varying obsessions with the house, which slowly intensify as things move along.
After the initial appearance of the house the tension is palpable, and these early sections are riveting to read and genuinely caught my attention. From the mass car alarms going off wildly, the incredible levels of smoke, to the sheer bewilderment and confusion from the emergency services, who are completely perplexed by the appearance of the freaky house. As Jackson’s father is a highly-ranked policeman, the four friends get an early look and they realise it radiates a malevolent atmosphere which grows stronger the closer you are to the actual building. The initial thoughts that this is some sort of crazy prank disappear in the confusion.
If you are going to spent over 200 pages of build-up before entering the house, then the payoff must be worth the wait. Sadly, it is a slight let down and the interiors are too fantastical to hold much in the way of suspense. The second half is loaded with lots of incredible scenes, but none of them are remotely scary, with others being more psychological tests. The inside of the house forgoes creaky doors, flickering candles and long shadows for much wilder stuff, which did not particularly grab me, some of which edges towards science fiction or even the scenarios one might find within a computer game.
There are numerous references to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and the plot borrows key aspects from that masterpiece. A sinister corporation claims ownership of the house, and on Halloween will allow four winners of a lottery to spend a night inside; if they survive, they will win one million USD each. Borrowing this plotline from The Haunting of Hill House is nicely handled, however, it is a shame Patrick Delaney did not also take inspiration from the fact that Jackson’s masterwork is easily half the length of his book.
I enjoyed The House that Fell from the Sky without being overwhelmed by it; the atmosphere is outstanding, the characters convincing and there is great build-up to powerful set-pieces in the second half. The sheer girth of the novel is its overwhelming flaw; however, the positives outweigh the negatives and I am sure will pick up plenty of fans and positive reviews elsewhere.
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