Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-347-8
When I first read the synopsis of Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s This House… on the publisher’s website, I thought this was a tale of some kid who murders people to fill up a house with ghosts. Okay, Joey Lodge’s brain has never been the same since the kid sustained some horrific injuries in a bike accident, and he hears a voice in his head, supposed from an alien, who tells him that he needs a haunted house that will free his soul from his body and allow it to go a distant planet, where he would heal and, when he gets back to his body, so will his body too. His dysfunctional family eventually moves to an old house that fits the haunted property stereotype… but we have no ghosts.
The story is not about a brain-damaged killer, however. Joey’s family ends up providing the foundation of the madness in this story, as we have a junkie father, a cousin who is intent on destructive behavior in order to feel alive, and an aunt who doesn’t know what to do with her self-destructive daughter, addled brother, and not-quite-there nephew anymore. Throw in some enterprising race-fixers, a furious bookie, and more, and soon, Joey will have more ‘ghosts’ than he knows what to do with.
The best thing about This House… is its unpredictability. Just when I thought I had a decent idea of where it is heading, the author veers off and goes out of the path, so to speak. Since this story is crazy and no rules constrains it, he happily drives the whole thing off the cliff, and the whole experience is just so much fun. The ending is pretty smart too, if far-fetched just like everything else in this story, and I spend a few seconds wondering about that one until I shrug and just go, “Hey! So much crazy everywhere – how fun.”
In many ways, this one reminds me of a particularly gory result of a Tales from the Crypt episode mated with a Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. It just marches ahead to its own drums, and it is quite democratic in delivering the skank and the gore on everyone. I like this one, it’s definitely A-OK in my house.