Sunday, 27 July 2014

Book Review: Four Houses by Victoria Scott

Goodreads * Amazon * Scribd (read free with trial)

Publisher: Smashwords
Published: June 26, 2011
44 pages

Goodreads synopsis:

"A frightened girl. 

An empty field. 

Four houses. 

Which house would you choose?

FOUR HOUSES is a dark short story told in an unusual format that leaves readers wondering how they'd react if found in the same situation as seventeen-year-old Maddy."

Rating: 3.75 stars

Everyone on Goodreads seems to be giving this short story 5 stars, but I'm still pondering it and having it sink in. The story is only 44 pages so it's easy to read in one sitting. The format is unusual: you begin the story at the end, essentially. The chapters go backwards in time, bringing you to "The Incident" -- the catalyst which propels our main character Maddy into a place where she must face four houses. The questions are: Where is she? Why are there four houses? What's inside them? 

I am not usually one of the "I saw it coming" bunch and truly I enjoy a story so much more when I can't figure out the twist. This time I did have a hunch what the Incident was (and I was correct) but when get to the big reveal, the best thing about the story is how little it actually matters. The story is not hinged on the twist, the twist simply is a springboard which expertly ties the ends into a neat package. Take it or leave it, it is what it is. 

Maddy is 17 years old and faced with four houses. She ventures into the last one in the first chapter and describes what she finds there; the descriptions don't always make perfect sense and are very surreal, but that's part of the big picture. What Maddy finds behind each of the doors of the Four Houses is in the most substantial sense, subjective. 

This story has to be taken as a Big Picture and not analyzed chapter by chapter. As a story, it makes me think. It's a bit like a splash of cold water in the face (if I may use a very overly used simile). I'm a bit...disturbed by it, but I think the author was going for that reaction so I consider her successful. 

I can't tell too much without giving everything away and I certainly don't want to reveal the twist for those who enjoy finding out for themselves. 

I had to fudge my own ratings system a little on this one because I have an idea of what 4 stars is to me and this didn't *quite* hit it, but it's definitely above a 3 -- it's not an average book with average writing. Victoria Scott does an excellent job of creating a sense of disturbance. That's the best word for it -- it's not confusion or desperation, but disturbance. Something wrong with The Force. Something off-kilter. 

The book is available for free at Scribd, you just need to sign up for a free trial membership (make sure you know when your trial ends as it is $8.99 a month after the free period). 

If you like stories that stick with you and make you think for long after you've finished reading, Four Houses will hit the spot.

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