THE FOREVER HOUSE By Tim Waggoner
Flame Tree Press, s/b, £9.95
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
The Forever House is an interesting take on horror – it opens by introducing the villains of the piece, the Eldreds. An ancient family of beings that travel from town to town feeding off dark human emotions like fear, taking over houses with a tainted past – such as the site of a murder. Consisting of Father Hunger, the Werewife, the Low Prince, the Nonsister and the elderly Grandother, they travel from one feeding site to the next within their sentient Car, a strange being that seems to exist only to transport them. Accompanied by Machine Head – a literal machine head that they put onto the headless bodies of people they kill for this purpose, they find their latest Stalking Ground (as they call it) – the Raines house in suburban Rockridge. The site of a horrific murder/suicide, it has sat empty for a long time, driving nearby property prices down.
Once in their new home, the Eldreds begin preparing it for their feeding – changing it inside and out, creating whole new worlds within it as the dimensions of the interior are expanded beyond the understanding of physics. Their new neighbours are their intended prey – a flawed bunch including a paedophile and his overly protective mother who tries to make sure he doesn’t get any temptation for his appetites; a gambling addict, his wife and young daughter; a university student suffering from anxiety and her uptight university professor father with a superiority complex; and a bisexual gym instructor and her husband who is struggling to come to terms with his wife’s newly announced sexuality. They all find themselves plunged into a nightmare when the Eldreds invite them over for a barbecue, and the hunt begins.
Having the Eldreds introduced at the start felt odd to me at first – often in books like this, the evil is gradually unveiled as the tale progresses, but having their background, feeding habits and plans announced upfront seemed unusual. However, as the book progressed, this distraction ceased to be – Waggoner’s writing immersed me into the Eldred’s house, their preparations for their feeding and the personalities of their prey. The dynamic between the neighbours is well-written, with an unpleasant level of detail provided in some parts, especially the scenes explaining the backstory of the paedophile (necessary, but deeply unpleasant nonetheless), and the level of suspense builds as they are all separated into groups within the Eldred’s Stalking Ground. Naturally, the paedophile finds himself in the same group as the young daughter (who he has idolised from afar), and he tries to suppress his appetites as the Eldreds feed on all the dark emotions coming from him and the others. With such a flawed bunch of characters, it is hard to empathise with some of the protagonists, but even the paedophile gets a degree of pathos built for him as the book progresses.
It’s a good take on horror, with an interesting new type of evil – if you’ve enjoyed Stephen King and Dean Koontz in the past, then Tim Waggoner is worth trying.