House of Stairs seemed like it was going to be TERRIFYING! Experimental mind-fuckery! Five teenaged orphans in a massive room full of nothing but STAIRS! Nothing to lean against, nowhere to lie down, no way to be comfortable or secure EVER. And then there’s this machine that gives them food when they do X, only X is always something different and they have to learn how to figure out what the machine wants or they get no food and then they starve.
And this is frightening. For, like, 70 pages I am shaking in my boots, and the book clocks in at maybe 200 so for HALF THE BOOK I am squeasy uneasy. Fright fright fright! Even though the characterization is pretty poor, and the dialogue is clunky and the characters are all pretty stock, I’m willing to ignore this because these kids are clearly in some organized William-Golding-meets-M-C-Escher-type social experiment and that both thrills and repulses me.
And then the plot thins. And I’m struggling to put my finger on precisely what went wrong, but Magic 8 Ball says that the original author died somewhere circa page 72 and then someone who SUCKS at stories picked up the rest. And at the point where the frights usually get ratcheted, these ones sort of sputtered and died. And you kept waiting and hoping, because surely there is a deeper meaning to this, some sort of effed up Big Brother shit, but you get to the end and no, the meaning is about an inch below the surface and also here is a scientician to explain it to you.
Color me underwhelmed.