I used to pride myself on not being shocked, but then I read this book by Andrew Stone and oh boy does this shock you out of complacency while reading.
ALL HAIL THE HOUSE GODS is a bizarro-horror novel that takes a hard look at what people do in the face of oppression. We find our fool of a hero, Kurt, as he witnesses his eldest son being gobbled up by a House God, which are literal sentient houses. This changes everything for his wife, who organizes a rebellion intent on destroying their oppressive gods. None of this sits right with Kurt, so he attempts to come up with his own solution…
Stone has created a bizarre, nightmare dystopia. For a society that is built around constantly having sex and producing children, you’d think it would be a lot more “go lucky”…it’s not. The harsh fact of having children chosen for sacrifice by lottery and sent across the bridge into the gaping maw of a House God is incredibly bleak. Stones prose makes these realities visceral and sharp, while by virtue of Kurt’s consistent stupidity there is some humor injected here and there throughout.
The idea of Houses coming to life and devouring humanity is an incredibly vivid image and there’s a lot to unpack there, but Stone’s narrative doesn’t let the reader sit idly by. He forces the reader to engage in the real family politics at play and understand that is isn’t about the House Gods. This story is about how people come to accept the oppressive regimes around them. It engages various reactions to this oppression and how they range from radicalism to passive defeatism. There are even figureheads in society that tell Kurt that “roles are just meant to be filled, even if their original purpose has been outlived or abused.” It elevates this little novella into a realm of relevance as it epitomizes what people from around the globe have felt in recent years and continue to feel in their day to day lives.
Some quick disclaimers: This is a horror novel, so there are some violent/graphic images and actions(especially involving kids). There is also a lot of gratuitous sex in this, which is somewhat buffered by Kurt’s rather ridiculous descriptions, but they are there all the same.
If you want to read a truly unique story that deals with families, interpersonal relationships, fascism, in a dystopian setting, this is the perfect read for you.
But if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are houses eating people.