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House of Stairs Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 1991
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"When people talk about classic dystopian novels for young readers, the same titles come up again and again: The Giver. City of Ember. A few others. But one classic book in that subgenre deserves a lot more love: House of Stairs by William Sleator." --io9.com
About the Author
William Sleator (1945-2011) is the author of numerous science fiction books for children and young adults, including Interstellar Pig, House of Stairs, and Blackbriar.
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Top customer reviews
The novel opens with Peter. Peter has no idea where he is. He finds himself blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination. Removing the blindfold, he finds himself all alone in a truly bizarre environment. Everywhere he looks, as far as the eye can see, he's in a cavernous space filled with stairs. Stairs going up, going down, some with small landings, some connected by bridges. There are no walls, no floor, no railings, no place to feel safe. As he fights vertigo, Peter finally spies someone below him and calls out.
Unfortunately, Lola doesn't know any more about where they are or why than Peter does. Their stories of being blindfolded are the same, but they quickly discover other commonalities as well. They are both orphans from state homes, and both 16 years old. They discover this is true of the other three kids they meet in the "house of stairs."
Peter, Lola, Blossom, Abigail, and Oliver all find themselves in an utterly inexplicable situation, and they all deal with it differently. They are very different personalities. Survival becomes their first priority. What at first seems to be an entity merely trying to control their actions, quickly becomes far more sinister.
Viewing the reactions of these young people to their circumstances, and finding out how the novel would end, had me turning pages just as fast now as it did when I was a kid. And I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed revisiting this story. I can see that it's a piece of fiction very much of its time, and as an adult I better understand the context of the novel. (Like another reviewer, I, too, thought of the infamous Zimbardo and Milgram experiments.) All that aside, House of Stairs is still a compelling story and a relevant warning to be heeded today.
This is a very exciting idea and a book I very appreciated. The ending was chilling.
The only thing I missed was a bit more depth to the characters. We didn't get to know anything really about three of them (Oliver, Lola and Abigail). And Peter's relationship with Jasper could have been explored in greater depth as well. It seemed odd how he was mentioned yet so little was told about him. The reason for Blossom's hostility and antisocial behavior could also be explained more. Did she have APD?
Other than feeling there was still more I wanted to know about them, I really enjoyed this one.