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October 17, 2012

The House Of Rumour - Jake Arnott

The House Of Rumour by Jake Arnott has a chapter for each card in a deck of Tarot cards, the chapters are mainly short stories, set in the same universe, on the same timeline and arranged roughly chronologically. There are threads that tie the stories together, mainly the returning character of a Science Fiction writer, Larry Zagorski, who starts writing in the the USA just before the second world war. Creating an interlocking novel of short stories is challenging, how do you pull a reader through without a single driving plot? How do you make readers care about characters in a short space of time? How do you keep readers interest when stories explain what appear to be fringe events to the plot? Unfortunately all of these points are where I feel The House Of Rumour falls flat. It can be done of course, Christopher Priest showed with The Islanders that its possible to even make a description of a barren island feel loaded with meaning and mystery and central to the core story, The House Of Rumour suffers in comparison.

The Tarot deck chapter titles were nothing more than irritating. I assume that each title was loaded with meaning and that each chapter was meant to represent the tarot card, but I care so little (negative amounts) about the myths of tarot and their meanings that it turned me off immediately. 

At times the stories became self referential but instead of that being clever and intelligent it came across as annoyingly smug. At times the stories resorted to cheap shock reveals at the end, unfortunately most of them were signposted a mile away.

The one thread that could have been interesting was the story about Rudolph Hess flying to Scotland during the war.but once again Christopher Priest has showed us how to make that story interesting in The Separation. Perhaps it's unfair to compare The House Of Rumour to these other novels, but I couldn't help feeling that I'd seen it all before, except done better. Perhaps my dislike stems from the fact that I'm not at all interested in stories of Aleister Crowley and sex and drugs in fifties California? I'm not interested in the nostalgia of "crazy" days and what it did to people, the myths or the mythos. It's just not my thing.

The House Of Rumour disappointed me, didn't manage to hold my interest and left me feeling flat.