Tuesday, June 27, 2017

There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House, by David Erik Nelson

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(Horror) Glenn’s boss sends him to check out a new house he plans to flip, but just getting inside turns out to be harder than anyone could imagine—never mind getting back out. (23,491 words; Time: 1h:18m)

Rating: ★★★★★ A Real Page Turner
Recommended By: SFRevu:4 GDozois:4 RHorton:5

"There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 07-08|17, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: In terms of plot, Glenn first seeks just to get into the house, then to explore it, then to escape it, and finally to destroy it. The house, of course, has its own agenda, which he thwarts.

The house serves as a metaphor for the way Glenn has been trapped in his life. By the end of the story, he’s found a purpose and a passion—hunting down and destroying all the other Quintus Teal houses he’s sure are out there.

Glenn and Lenny are both well-developed characters, and we love them both by the end. Glenn’s comments about Lenny may not be very PC, but he clearly cares a great deal about Lenny, and that’s what really matters.

The scene where the police rough Glenn up merits special mention for how well it’s handled. It could easily have come off as delivering a strong message (and, even when we agree with the message, a story that hits us over the head with it is flawed), but the author keeps the scene from seeming preachy. Instead, it comes across feeling (sadly) real, and it still makes it more satisfying when the bad cops get their comeuppance later.

It's amusing (in a sick sort of way) that the police knew about this fantastic building for years, but all they could think to do with it was use it to help them run death squads.

Quintus Teal was the young architect in Heinlein’s outstanding novelette “And He Built a Crooked House,” (Astounding Science Fiction; February 1941, 7,572 words). This story is obviously an homage to that story.

The story suggests you Google the sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” to get an idea for how Mr. Schnabel’s body was twisted. Ouch!

Con: As with Heinlein’s “And He Build a Crooked House,” there’s a bit of hand waving with regard to how these transitions work. E.g. Your hand goes through and comes back, but your whole body goes somewhere else.

Anja doesn’t fit very well into the story, and her disappearance at the end is a bit abrupt (albeit understandable).

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I just finished reading the story and agree completely with your assessment. One thing I would add, though...this is the first story I've read in quite a while that actually made the hair on the back of my neck stick up...and sent chills up my spine.

  2. Also it might be worth mentioning the different tones in the story. There is the upbeat, the downbeat, pure terror, as Emmett Hoops mentioned, and some very well placed humor.

    I got to read this story because of your rank. Thank you!

    1. That's what we like to hear! :-)

      I didn't think about the changes in tone, but you're definitely right. Many stories have jarring tone changes, but these are very well done because they harmonize with each other somehow. Great observation!

  3. Liked this one too. Made a little extra creepy by the fact that I live near Detroit and there are plenty of spooky Victorian houses around. I'm guessing Lenny is possibly a reference to the Of Mice and Men character.