Fiction Reviews


The Forever House

(2020) Tim Waggoner, Flame Tree Press, £9.95 / US$14.95, pbk, 297pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58319-1

 

Imagine the old TV series The Munsters was not a sit-com but full blooded horror and you will have a good idea where this book is going for much of its first half.  A family of ghastly monsters, actually some kind of highly advanced psychic vampires, move into a sleepy American town, and create a very literal living Hell for their neighbours.  The whole concept evokes an Ďis this guy for real?í reaction to Waggoner, but in a good way.  Somehow, you know this is going to be quite a blast to read.

It isnít as though the community attacked hasnít got enough serious issues of its own, given the Peyton Place style secrets, lies and bitterness seething in most of the people there.  One man has discovered his wife has lesbιan desires and grows increasingly paranoid that she might have an affair with other women in the area.  A young man struggles to contain his paedophιle urges and desires towards neighbouring girls.  He hasnít touched any of them, but he fears he might lose the will to control himself, a fact the newcomers will be very keen to exploit.  His struggle actually gives him some respect and nobility despite what he is restraining himself from doing.

The neighbourhood is reeling from the news of a family that was butchered in a murderous suicide frenzy, in an Amityville Horror house that was proving impossible to sell, until the Eldreds (the clue is in the name), snap it up.

The Eldreds, calling themselves names like The Nonsister, Father Hunger, and The Werewife, have a very strange robotic ally, servant and pet called Machine Head, who is essentially a mechanical ball that perambulates on stolen human bodies.  We first meet the family driving around in the strangest car ever seen in a horror novel, when they decide that they need a new body for Machine Head as the one he has is rotting away too much.  One decapitated early morning jogger later, and Machine Head is up to speed again.

This is the family who will invite the Rockridge, Ohio locals to a meet-&-greet barbecue.

The wild Ďis this for realí, roller coaster pacing changes then, as the story moves into Clive Barker territory.  The Eldreds have turned the murder house into a set of multidimensional puzzle rooms, within a TARDIS-like interior, forcing the neighbours to go through a gauntlet of deadly games that will whittle down their numbers.  There is a flying bat demon, using flocks of killer birds to knock the humans from a mountainside that has no business existing indoors, and a room where broken toy soldiers come to life as a zombie militia, among many other threats.  The fears and temptations felt in their own minds will also be turned against the unfortunate folk of Rockridge.

The idea of the feast-games is promoted as each of the Elded having a separate play with your food zone, but the victims do stick together for the most part and if not for some of the Eldred hatching a deadly plot to overthrow the others, the mortals would not stand a chance even at the first gaming level.

The only flaw here is that the Eldreds are simply too powerful.  The humans should be completely out of their minds within minutes of the terror beginning, much as happens with the estate agent who sells the murder house to the fiends in the opening chapters.  However if the characters did not endure and fight on the book would be very short and that would simply not do, especially with this one.

Arthur Chappell

 


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