Saturday, October 26, 2013

House of Leaves Review

House of Leaves is a novel written by Mark Z Danielewski and it is unlike any other (my, one line so far and this is already starting to sound like a raving review;  bear with me for a sec while I'll explain).

Let's start with the plot.  It has at least three parallel storylines that work on separate levels and time frames and from the various character viewpoints. The main thread, and the rest in their own way, focus on a house. This house has something peculiar to it which, as time goes on, begins beckon it's inhabitants until it reveals itself as a full-fledged manifestation. The phenomenon clearly merits investigation and the rest of this storyline details its progress and ultimate results in a Blair Witch fashion (not a spoiler!). 

The other threads house the main narrative in a meta sense and revolve around it.

Now, this has been seen in one form or another before. The construction of the book adds another layer to what is already a riveting foundation making it leapfrog over others & wannabes. It starts pedestrian enough with text and footnotes. Then the footnotes begin to grow, other supporting material emerges, text boxes shift and rotate and towards the end the text itself become s part of the setting. Other devices used include text color, blot outs, quotes, color photos, some comic panels and more. Oh, and the book is also self-referential.

There are some unstated enigmas which the reader can try to unravel with the help of an included index (how many novels have an index?).

From so many schemes one must conclude that this book can only exist in physical book format. In fact it appears as if the author tried to push the format as far it would comfortably go. It is architectural. That's the one word summary. Other formats simply cannot do it justice, as House of Leaves is so very visual and spatial.  A movie perhaps could perhaps only capture part of the whole, but definitely not all.

In light of what has been said, this book will appeal not only to those who like weird stories and some horror, but also to those that like, or are involved in, story crafting and who like to see how all the pieces fit together. It will also be of special interest to those who love books as objects.  Despite being a paperback, it can find a place in any booklover's collection.

In a world quickly shifting towards e-readers and tablets after a couple of millenia of the codex rule, it is comforting and, why not, exciting to see the old format still pull new tricks.

5 stars
You can take a look at last year's Halloween special here


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