In a unique dystopian world where harmony and survival depend on offering children to sentient houses, a small group of people try to discover if the House Gods can be defeated. Is it possible to lay a trap for them, or are there good House Gods that don't feed upon our children? One family is going to find out.
You've probably read the above paragraph and are thinking, 'Sentient houses? What weirdness is this?' Well, I'm here to tell you that it's the best kind of bizarre. What Andrew Stone has achieved is a tale in which you don't question the strangeness occurring within the story. Sure, sentient houses that eat people is pretty fucking strange, but Stone's writing is so skilful that you don't question the oddities within. Once you start reading, you fall into a state of acceptance. Similar to the characters in the book.
The world of All Hail the House Gods is one where copulation is not simply encouraged but enforced. People are required to breed; to create children that will either be sacrificed to the House Gods or enter the Village of the Engaged to spawn their own sacrifices.
I found myself immersed in the world of the House Gods. In a way, the tale reminded me of a good science fiction novel, especially during the opening chapters. Phrases and objects are introduced without needless exposition. We may be familiar with the words used, but the context and meaning are different for characters in the story, and Stone doesn't waste time explaining those things. They are left for the reader to interpret and decipher. The meanings are revealed through dialogue and character interaction. Some words may be used in a different context to what we are used to, but it won't take a genius to understand what is meant by 'plank' or 'soil.'
Or 'furry furnace.'
I'm pretty sure that everyone is going to know what the 'Collector' does without needing an explanation.
My only negative would be that despite how much I enjoyed not having an over-abundance of information, I did want to know more about the House Gods. How they move isn't explained, and I couldn't decide if they slid along the ground, rocked upon their foundations, or sprouted spider-like legs and scurried about. There is a mention of 'crab-walking,' but it's something that isn't easy to visualise with what is normally a static object. So, I went with the mental image of them sliding.
The book's ending seems to be a divisive point for some readers, and I can see why. As I reached the final page and read the closing sentence, I found myself turning the page, wanting more. But I had reached the end. I knew there was nothing else; that I had indeed finished, but it may not have the closure that some readers will want to see. I don't mind either way. Sure, I would love to know what happens next, but at the same time, I am happy to leave the world of the House Gods. Not that I have truly left. The story lingers on the mind, like a solitary building squatting in a field. You can forget about its presence for a while, but as soon as your eyes alight upon it, you find yourself pondering it again, wondering what its purpose is.
I've realised as I write this that explaining All Hail the House Gods isn't an easy task. Most things I've mentioned probably won't make sense or will sound too strange and weird. Some people will decide that the book isn't for them. And that's fine; we're not all going to enjoy the same things, but missing out on All Hail the House Gods is missing out on something very unique. As I've already stated, I found myself falling into a state of acceptance whilst reading. Nothing seemed too strange or unusual. It simply was the way of the world. Did this make me as compliant as the characters who willingly followed orders to procreate to sacrifice? Perhaps. But again, that's what is so clever about it. If you like to dissect a story for the hidden meanings, and all the nuances of social and political layered within, then you are going to have a great time with the book.
That kind of analysis is way above the workings of my meagre brain, so if you are like me, and want an original story that is as enjoyable as it is unusual, then All Hail the House Gods is the book for you.
All Hail the House Gods isn't just an intriguing and well-written story, but it's also one that stays with you, and for me, that's a sign that I read something truly special.