Imagine a world where children grow up in a government tent facility, taught to practice breeding with each other until the day comes they are actually able to reproduce, at which point they will marry and be forced to produce a child for the government to take away from them every year, and so on and so on. Now, imagine sentient houses who rule as gods and require children chosen lottery-style to be offered up as sacrifices. Andrew J. Stone – author of the Tim Burton-esque Mortuary Monster – undoubtedly licked an entire sheet of LSD and envisioned such a horrific dystopia, and then put it on paper. In All Hail the House Gods, patriotism takes the place of sexual autonomy and pleasure, and procreation is viewed as the ultimate civil duty.
We staggered deeper into the tent toward the cafeteria for our morning aphrodisiacs[…] Once we had eaten just enough to energize us, and not a bite more, so as to avoid the risk of entering a food coma, we exited the cafeteria, each of us choosing between a variety of doors, each option leading to a separately themed room where we were to spend the next several hours participating in what the government officials called Erotic Recreation.
With such a terrifying premise, it was an interesting move by Stone to make an allegiant, unquestioning imbecile the narrator of this short novel. It turned out to be a clever choice, I think, because seeing this world through the eyes of a naïve patriot adds deeper layers of humor and horror. It was also an oddly engaging experience reading a story in which I was rooting against the storyteller. After Kurt, the narrator, loses a card game that results in his and his wife Katie’s oldest son being selected as a sacrifice to the House Gods, Katie becomes the strong-headed, rebellious hero of the story, forming an underground resistance group of celibates intent on defying the powers that be. If sentient houses and all-too-believable fascist governments weren’t intriguing enough, the birth of the Collateral Damage Collective is where the novel gets really interesting, as it goes from being a satire that ridicules blind civil obedience to being a marital drama, in which the partners must deal with the grief of losing their son, their roles in society, and each other after each have planted their feet on opposite sides of the fence.
As a sophomore effort, All Hail the House Gods is evidence that Stone is an author with enough chops to tell a wide variety of stories in unexpected and imaginative ways. It is also evidence that the bizarro genre continues to evolve as an important art movement rather than a weird-for-weirdness-sake marketing gimmick. When it comes to this novel, I would say come for the psychedelic furniture orgies, stay for the revolution.
All Hail the House Gods
by Andrew J. Stone
Strange House Books; 134 p.