the contextual life

thoughts without borders

The World House by Guy Adams

with 3 comments

“Nothing in this building is to be taken lightly, my dear, nothing at all.”

I’d like to say outright that it takes a chapter or two to settle into the The World House. I give forewarning because after acclimating to the pace and structure of the story, the reader is rewarded tenfold. In this dark fantasy, Guy Adams creates an impossible mystery within an alternate dimension set outside the usual notions of space, time, and logic.

The book begins with the reality-based lives of multiple characters, many unconnected and rooted in different continents and time periods. Miles, a modern-day Brit, owes gambling debts to a man who collects in cash or broken bones; Penelope, living in 1920s America, finds that her fiance has a dark side; Tom, also an American, is a hack musician who spends his waking hours inebriated and pining after Elise, a stripper who frequents the same bar when she’s done with work; Pablo is a hired thief in Spain during their Civil War of the 1930s; and Sophie, described as “special-needs,” appears to be somewhere on the autism spectrum and for that reason not much is known about her origins. What they all have in common is a chance encounter with an ancient box and a stressful moment. In an instant, the artifact unlatches and pulls them inside the surreal world of an old, Victorian house.

Alan, a middle-aged history professor from modern-day Florida, however, is an exception to those unexpectedly transported. An unexplained bout of amnesia has wiped out any memory of his earlier years. Preoccupation with lost time leads Alan to an obsess over the legend of a mysterious box. Determined to find this object known to steal people away, rarely returning them, he spends much of his time researching its whereabouts and placing ads offering a price to anyone who might have it in their possession.

One day he’s contacted and given instructions for a meetup. Expecting a hoax or a false alarm, as has been the case with past encounters, he’s surprised to see the real thing in front of him. After paying a generous sum, he’s drawn through and finds himself in a jungle—later revealed to be a greenhouse. Immediately, he comes across Sophie, newly transplanted, unsure of where she is and how she got there. Alan takes it upon himself to protect her, which turns out to be a heroic endeavor since there’s a Lord of the Flies type situation happening amongst the jungle-residents they meet.

The interweaving stories of these characters, spilt into three groups as they travel the house, are complex and disorienting yet surprisingly coherent. Their adventures provide vivid images of a horrific location: a playroom with a live game of Chutes and Ladders, a library with dog-sized bookworms, a bathroom where a royal navy sails through treacherous waters, and rooms connected by hidden portals. Alternating between the separate groups in quick succession, each of their predicaments equally intriguing, Adams builds tension through compelling cliffhangers. The effect is effortless page-turning.

As the story unfolds—unforced, organic, and without banalities—the experience is mind-bending and to give anything away would be a criminal act. When you come up on the last few pages of The World House make sure you have the sequel, Restoration, on hand. You won’t want this story to end.

Guy Adams’ page at Angry Robot

Written by Gabrielle

August 2, 2011 at 6:24 am

3 Responses

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  1. This is one I’m looking forward to! Even more so after reading your review!


    August 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    • it was soooo good! i’ve been hunting around for the next one. you know when you finish a book and you’re like, “no!” … i did that.


      August 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm

  2. […] Gabrielle Gantz looks at Guy Adams’s The World House: “an impossible mystery within an alternate dimension set outside the usual notions of space, time, and logic.” GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_bg", "ffffff"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_border", "bbbbbb"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_text", "333333"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_link", "1c9bdc"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_url", "1c9bdc"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Autotag", "books"); GA_googleAddAttr("Autotag", "entertainment"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "bites"); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_below_post"); Share this:StumbleUponDiggFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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