House of Stairs PDF ¼ House of PDF/EPUB or
One by one, five sixteen year old orphans are brought to a strange building It is not a prison, not a hospital it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere, except back to a strange red machine The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives But will they let it kill their souls I read this because it is the 1 answer to What the hell was that crazy book I read 20 years ago questions House of Stairs has showed up on LibraryThing s Name That Book group three times in the past year Half of the YA books in that group turn out to be William Sleator We got a Contact Us question the other day that turned out to be 2 William Sleator books So I figured it was high time I read something by this mysterious man.Jesus There s a reason people remember it This book was crazy I read it in about 2 hours and could not put it down.In a sucky future America where everyone lives in huge run down apartment buildings and subsists on synthetic food, 5 teenage orphans of various personality types find themselves the subject of a sinister psychological experiment They are blindfolded, taken from their group homes and dumped in a huge, brightly lit building filled with neverending stairs, bridges and landings There is one toilet which is also the only source of water in the middle of a narrow, vertigo inducing bridge Most importantly, there is a machine with flashing lights and sounds that sometimes dispenses food contingent on certain behaviors from the teens.Lola the badass , Peter the shrinking violet , Blossom the spoiled, self centered brat , Abigail the pleaser , and Oliver the alpha male have to figure out how to behave to get the machine to feed them For a while, it feeds them if they all cooperate on an elaborate dance when the lights start flashing But what happens when the machine begins to demand other kinds of behavior from them I was worried that this book would have an anticlimatic ending, that there would be no explanation of why this was happening to these people But it has a very satisfying ending that will leave you thinking about it for a long time It s like 1984 for a slightly younger set.A fantastic book, but so disturbing I wouldn t recommend it to anyone younger than about 14. Young adult fiction must be a really tough genre to wrap your head around, for a writer You have a story that you want to tell, and you have to tell it in such a way that it is simple enough for your target audience to read, yet engaging enough to keep them reading The themes have to be familiar enough for them to understand and relate to, yet unusual enough to be interesting for them Go too far in the wrong direction and you have a failure So how does a YA writer do it, balancing all those issues, while still writing a good book Damned if I know I ve never managed to write a decent book for adults, much less young ones.Fortunately, there are plenty of talented writers who can write for young people, and one of those is William Sleator.A YA writer who specializes in science fiction, Sleator has written his fair share of strange, fantastic and sometimes disturbing books Of all the ones I ve read, this book is probably the one that creeped me out the most.The setup for this story is simple Five sixteen year old orphans two boys, three girls are put into a giant room, with no visible walls, ceiling or floor The only structures in this room are stairs and landings Nothing else except for a small machine with flashing lights and odd sounds that dispenses food.That s it.The five characters are very different and very interesting First we have Peter, a scared boy, uncertain of his surroundings in the best of times, and utterly overwhelmed by being dropped into this bizarre place He s afraid of everything and everybody, and finds solace only his the strange trances he drops into, in which he is with an old orphanage roommate, Jasper, feeling safe and protected As an interesting aside, it wasn t until I was much older that I figured out Peter s sexuality It wasn t that thinly veiled, either I really don t handle subtlety well, I think.Lola is not a showgirl Sorry, had to put that in Lola is a tough, street smart girl who has no tolerance for stupidity or cruelty She s had to learn a lot in her time, and doesn t look to others to decide what she should or should not do.Blossom is a fat little girl who is the first to figure out how to use the food dispenser in a rage at it, she sticks out her tongue, and out pops a food pellet but on this later She is cunning and devious, much sharper than people would give her credit for being If anyone is truly dangerous in this crowd, it is her.Abagail is a mousy girl, pretty in her own way, but with very little in the way of self confidence She tends to latch on to other people and question her own thoughts and actions She does have compassion, however, though not the means to make her compassion a reality.Finally, Oliver is the other boy of the group, and he is all that Peter is not He is strong and confident and good looking For a while, Peter thinks that Oliver is his old friend, Jasper, and subsequently Peter is devoted to Oliver A certain power stucture evolves when it is discovered that of all the people, only Oliver can bring Peter out of his trances Oliver has power, and he is not afraid to use it.These five kids are trapped in this house of stairs None of them know why they re there, they only know that they are They soon discover that the food dispensing machine will only give them food under certain conditions In the beginning , they are forced to repeat a series of actions and movements, that evolve into a kind of dance, hoping to get food from the machine.From there it gets only worse They soon discover that the dance isn t enough The infighting that comes naturally becomes essential to their survival, for only when they are cruel or greedy will the machine start flashing its lights and entice them to dance The question then becomes whether or not the kids will do as the machine wishes, and how long they can hold out against it Or if they will.This book is disturbing to say the least It levels some pretty harsh accusations about human nature, not just regarding the kids in the house of stairs, but also regarding the people who put them there The kids are there for a reason, and not a good one The whole setup which is thoroughly, if somewhat clunkily, explained at the end is about conditioning, and changing people s personality through stimuli and reinforcement to make them behave as desired Because it demonstrates people, young people in particular, behaving in a manner that displays the truth of their nature, this book has often been compared to Lord of the Flies, and rightly so In its way, it s even disturbing than Lord of the Flies at least the kids in that book had been left to their own devices, as terrible as they were In this book, the horrors that these five teens go through are part of a deliberate state sanctioned experiment in human conditioning a kind of horrible, Pavlovian Breakfast Club Such is the nature of that experiment that the two children who resisted the conditioning were actually regarded as failures Upon reflection, the people pulling the strings are far frightening and disturbing than these poor, manipulated children.If nothing else, the lesson to be learned from this story is simple be a human being There are some things that are too important to sacrifice for something as simple and petty as food and acceptance We must never allow ourselves to be beasts We have to be human This has relevance today, when we are debating the ethics of torture is it a necessary evil that we must tolerate if our society is to survive, or is it an offense against our humanity If we allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that an evil act is somehow the right thing to do, then we have lost a very important part of ourselves.Of course, it s also about science, but the message here is less dire we must not allow science to lose its humanity In this book, a strange future with a monolithic state government, science is entirely utilitarian, with no moral qualms about putting minors through psychological torture The good news is that, at least as of this writing, science errs on the side of ethics Modern science certainly has its moral gray areas, but the majority of scientists out there would never consent to run an experiment such as this I hope.The last line in the book is one of the frightening ones in literature, right up there with the last line in 1984 It s a blunt reminder of everything that has happened in the book, and a pointed summation of everything that Sleator has been trying to say that humans have a base nature, that we can be manipulated, and we will, given the right circumstances, allow others to shape who we are His message to his readers teenagers like the ones in this book is to refuse to submit to such control Good advice for them, and for us. Rating 3.5 Review Five orphans, named Lola, Peter, Blossom, Abigail and Oliver, all aged 16, suddenly find themselves in a weird place where there are no walls, floor, rooms or anything normal The only thing this place has is lots and lots of stairs defying gravity All of them are scared to find themselves in such a place and want to get back to their lives Slowly, they start discovering the place and knowing each other, when they notice a strange machine which gives them only a single pellet of food as they follow a particular pattern More correct the pattern and it s repetitiveness, the pellets of food they receive As days go by, they realize that the food machine doesn t just want them to dance to a particular pattern but also go against each other to survive Except for Lola and Peter who realise that it s not right to go against each other, the remaining three do anything and everything for their hunger Will they be able to survive in this House of Stairs Who and why got them here Answers to all these questions are explained masterfully in this captivating thriller by the writer A must read for all sci fi enthusiasts. A modern classic I read House of Stairs frequently as a child, and was happy to see this speculative novel from 1974 stands the test of time.That s because Sleator wisely keeps the futuristic science fiction touches to a minimum There s a very 70s reference to air pollution, but it isn t pivotal The rest of the book is about what doesn t change human nature.I m handing this to my son to read now I have the feeling he ll be as riveted by it as I was at his age. I am insanely addicted attracted to stories about the group in peril , when people are thrust into an alien setting absent of any social rules and obligations Under such circumstances, it usually doesn t take long for humans to throw off the shackles of civilized conduct and resort to a brutal survival of the fittest approach That s not just the pessimist in me coming out, but the realist What we become in extremis is both fascinating and frightening in the heroic heights we reach and the craven depths we sink to, and how quickly we revert to our most primal and baser urges One hundred thousand years of evolution gone in the blink of an eye William Golding shows us this in Lord of the Flies, as does Scott Smith in The Ruins, Jose Saramago in Blindness and Stephen King in his novella The Mist These books teach us that there are even worse fates than losing your life it s losing your humanity.In House of Stairs, William Sleator proves just how quickly humans can be stripped of their humanity First published in 1974, I imagine Sleator was influenced at least in part, by some of the famous psych experiments of the first half of the 20th century including the Little Albert Experiment and the Milgram Obedience Experiment Just a few years prior to its publication there was also the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment a study designed to ostensibly observe the effects of becoming either a prisoner or prison guard Twenty four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building Roles were assigned randomly This experiment degenerated so rapidly into violence and the dehumanization of its subjects that it had to be stopped after only six days Good times The five 16 year old protagonists here are subjected to much the same mindfuck pardon my French , enclosed in a never ending space of stairs there are no walls, no floors, no doors, no ceiling, just stairs, going up, going down That s the set up What follows is pretty tame by today s standards, and in my books does not hold a candle to Lord of the Flies however, it still makes for pure, unadulterated compulsive reading It doesn t surprise me that in 2000, the American Library Association, with teen participation, chose it as one of the 100 Best Young Adult Books of the last 50 years Recommended I first read the synopsis for this a few years ago and the concept immediately caught my attention Set in an unknown but clearly dystopian future, we follow five kids in their early teens who are suddenly dumped alone on a never ending room of stairs There is a machine that spits out food but only when the group perform certain actions which they have to determine by trial and error When the machine starts rewarding violence of the physical and psychological types the kids are pushed to either follow directions of take a stand for what they believe in.It s pretty damn awesome Peter, Lola, Blossom, Abigail and Oliver are our protagonists and they all clearly differ from one another with the five of them presenting a nice range of reactions and interactions to each other and the situation around them Peter is a follower and lacks confidence, Lola is a doer, confident and looks for a way out, Blossom is a fat spoiled girl who grew up with wealthy politicians and seems to have learnt to manipulate people by dividing them against each other Abigail is used to being looked at but lacks any real sense of herself and her value as a person outside others thoughts and Oliver is used to being in charge, used to having power and resents any competition to this position.The worldbuilding is nice with just enough tidbits thrown in to make me want to know We learn the boys and girls are separated until they are adults and in a relationship supposedly to prevent sexual mishaps That some of the wealthy and members of the government live behind a wall in large houses whilst the rest of the population are denied such a luxury and in many cases not even aware the sort of lifestyle even exists That the sitting President is a toady to his political advisors It s random stuff that often has no bearing on the story but it gives us a glimpse of what s outside the room without ever actually letting us out.The finale is done very well and provides a great deal of the horror as we do get to discover where the kids are, why they are there and who or what is pulling the strings Highly recommend picking this one up if you missed it during your childhood. Probably the first dystopian novel I ever read Because of this book, near the beginning of season one of LOST I was already predicting the cages and fish biscuits that would show up in season three.UPDATE Reread in 2013 after reading multiple times from ages 10 20 It has held up really well for a book written in the mid 1970s, besides some unfortunate stereotyping that was common at the time. A chilling and suspenseful tale that stick with the reader for years to come.This book is recommended for 9 12 year olds, however, I think it might be a bit intense for the younger side of this group, and I, as an adult, thoroughly enjoyed Slater s treatment of this psychological horror.Personal Note I read this book as a tween, and it stuck with me all these years I remember not being able to put it down, and upon revisiting it, it is still just as fascinating to me I read many of the.com reviews, and so many of them were from adults that still remember the impact this book had on them.My Review This is an incredibly creative and original science fiction tale that chronicles the events that take place when five teen aged orphans are behaviorally trained to respond to a machine Similarly to Lord of the Flies, anarchy rules, and the reader is able to view the dark side of humanity when left to its own devices This might be a new exploration for the tween, who, for the most part, has been exposed to heartwarming tales There is nothing warm and fuzzy in this book It is sheer dark and cold, though we do see triumph of inner character from some of the players The author draws the reader in immediately, and through crafty writing, is able to keep the reader right at the edge, unable to put the book down This book is a great introduction to science fiction and psychological thrillers A unique and memorable tale, the terrifying tale is one that could be enjoyed by older tweens. I think this is the last entry in my YA Sci Fi kick, but it s a high note to end on I ve spent than half my life searching for this book Really I checked it out from the Lawrence Public Library when I was 9 or 10 and read the first 15 pages, and then it got away from me I remember everything about it vividly 5 teenage orphans in a near future distopia find themselves, without explanation, in a gigantic white room consisting only of endless staircases and a machine that irregularly dispenses sausage when one character sticks out her tongue except for the title and author And how could I go to a librarian and describe the convoluted plot of an obscure 70 s kids book For some reason, I thought I couldn t So I would think about this book from time to time for the next 18 years, despairingly, and then I was reading a review of The Hunger Games in the New Yorker, and Laura Miller gave a quick summary of the genre of YA distopic sci fi, and described this book with complete citations So I retrieved it from the library, probably the exact same copy I read when I was 9, and I read it in a few hours, and it s great Simple and scary, with both inspiring and disturbing implications about the human soul Just what kids want Now that I ve settled this part of my childhood, I can continue reading the metafiction of my agegroup.