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The House of Doors
Brian Lumley
Tor Books, 474 pages

The House of Doors
Brian Lumley
Brian Lumley was born in 1937 at Horden, England. He has written horror and fantasy since the late 1960s. Retiring from the British Army in 1980, he became a full-time writer. His work includes the Necroscope series of novels. Lumley's short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and has often been selected for volumes of The Year's Best Horror. His story, "Fruiting Bodies," won the British Fantasy Award.

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A review by Stephen M. Davis

Brian Lumley's House of Doors is either an unhorrific horror story or an uninspired science fiction novel. Essentially, a large, alien craft has landed in the Scottish countryside, taking on the appearance of a castle. At some point, the alien aboard the craft "absorbs" a group of humans into the craft, in order to test their mental breaking points.

Apparently, this race of aliens is constantly seeking new worlds on which to expand, and any sentient races encountered are tested for worthiness. If all tests are passed, the Thone will move on to other worlds. If the tested race fails, the Thone feel justified in taking control of the planet and liquidating its current inhabitants.

Obviously, I had some problems with all this. My major objection is that if the Thone are really this powerful, why wouldn't they simply terraform a nice, empty planet? I would assume that, as miserably insignificant as the human race may be to a race like the Thone, it would still take considerable efforts to destroy us without making the planet uninhabitable for anyone -- Thone or human.

The idea for the story is reasonably interesting: once aboard, the alien, Sith, uses a kind of virtual reality to set up scenarios in which each of the human characters' most primal fears is exploited in an effort to find that person's breaking point. One of the characters is claustrophobic; another suffers from religious mania.

Although the idea for the story is interesting, its execution is less so. Predictably, the religious member of the group immediately loses his mind, while the man who is mechanically gifted saves the party from destruction. Mr. Lumley's major talent is dialogue, and his characters do talk like real people; one only wishes that the story wasn't quite so predictable. Even the ending is something that the reader will more than likely see as a distinct possibility early in the novel.

I think the book is not terribly inspired, and I can't really give it more than a shoulder shrug by way of recommendation.

Copyright © 1998 by Stephen M. Davis

Steve is faculty member in the English department at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C. He holds a master's in English Literature from Clemson University. He was voted by his high school class as Most Likely to Become a Young Curmudgeon.

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