Saturday, September 21, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: House of Houses by Kevin L. Donihe

There once was an odd reclusive little man who was in love with his house. He loved this house not in the way that normal people love their homes. His was a more intimate love, like the love between two humans. He loved his house so much that he asked it to marry him, and he believed that his house happily replied with a yes. Unfortunately, their love was to be torn apart the day before their wedding, on the day of the great house holocaust. On this day, every house in the world collapsed for no explainable reason. It was as if they killed themselves, and took many of their occupants with them. Distraught and despairing over the death of his fiancée, this man must go on a quest to find out what happened to his beloved home. On his quest: He will meet Tony, a self-declared superhero, who looks kind of like a black Man-At-Arms from the old He-Man cartoons and claims to protect the world from quasi-dimensional psychopomps with his powerful sexpounding abilities. He will meet Manhaus, who seems to be part man and part house. And, finally, he will venture to House Heaven, a world where houses live inside of bigger houses made of people.


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With something new and interesting appearing on every page, Donihe’s House of Houses reads like an assault of concepts, each idea seemingly fitting into a puzzle. Maybe that comparison isn’t correct; perhaps the ideas are bricks which build a house, although the book itself is the house and there isn’t a blueprint that clearly defines what the book should look like. Each page constructs a world upon a world, or a house upon a house. 

The book is something of an odyssey; though the story’s length is relatively short, the first chapter seems distant by the time you’re finished reading. Somehow, Donihe manages to bend time; one man’s journey to House Heaven to find his beloved—a house named Helen—is unique in its presentation and scope. Each page seemed to present another question, and I kept turning the pages to find answers I didn’t necessarily need. I felt as if I were discovering a world Donihe didn’t design; there’s a sense of place that collides with the surreal as if the book is a collage of dreams stolen by Sigmund Freud from a dozen of his most demented patients. By sharing some of the images in this book, I would ruin part of its charm and mystery. 

The beating heart of this story involves subtle commentary on relationships, government, reality, and sexuality, to name a few of the ideas that are challenged. Dark humor quirky enough to provoke smirks and laughter from the audience didn’t provoke a “that’s funny” reaction for me, but rather, I felt these moments or images in House of Houses provided the mortar between the story’s layered bricks. I felt as if I were witnessing the Dystopian nightmare of a post-industrial society. Based on my calculations, the book is scored at 4.86 stars, rounded up for review purposes.