The Death House reviewed

Death House 02

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough. Gollancz.

Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

I’ve been kicking myself (metaphorically of course) for not reading The Death House until now. It’s been sitting on my shelves waiting patiently for its pages to be turned, its words read.

Sarah Pinborough’s science fiction novel is set in a dystopian future/alternate world (it’s not obvious which and it’s not important), in a house that resembles an approved school on an isolated island somewhere far from civilisation. It’s a place where “Defective” children are housed until they die from the illness triggered by their defective genes, a place where there is only one way out – on a gurney, their existence then wiped away. It’s a bleak scenario and yet, despite the death that awaits the inmates, it is a coming-of-age story that bubbles with the promise of life.

Toby is the de facto head boy of Dorm 4. He whiles away the days in semi-boredom, avoiding the attention of Matron and her staff, living for the nights when he is alone, echoing the location’s isolation. The status quo is shattered when a new bunch of Defectives arrive, including the teenage girl Clara. At first he resents her, that she too has discovered the secret of the vitamin pills; soon, though, he becomes besotted. Together, they plan their escape (from a place that no-one, ever, has escaped from).

Sarah Pinborough readily gives away two of her inspirations for this novel: The Lord of the Flies and the Narnia books (there are hints of others). And yes, the children do form tribes, do develop friendships and hatreds. Unlike Lord of the Flies, however, they know their future; know that there is no ship on the horizon to release them from captivity. She is able to enter the heads of the boys with consummate ease, depicting their concerns expertly – no doubt lessons she learned as a teacher.

Neil Gaiman endorses the hardcover edition; Stephen King the paperback. Who am I to disagree with these two giants of the field? The Death House is a thoroughly engaging read (it’s a cliché but I really found it difficult to put the book down when I had to get on with life). Toby, Clara and the others are real people and if you don’t finish this novel with tears welling up then you are probably a robot. A tremendous book and one I have no hesitation in recommending.

 

New books

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  • Wayne G Hammond & Christina Scull — The Art of the Lord of the Rings — Harper Collins £25
  • Marcus Hearn – Thunderbirds: The Vault – Virgin £25
  • Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Midnight – Solaris £7.99
  • George RR Martin — A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms — Harper £20
  • Paul Meloy – The Night Clock – Solaris £7.99
  • Adam Nevill – Lost Girl – Pan £7.99
  • Stephen Nicholas & Mike Tucker – Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds – BBC £35
  • Terry Pratchett – The Shepherd’s Crown – Doubleday £20
  • Rob Redman (ed) – Long Grey Beard and Glittering Eye – Fiction Desk £9.99
  • Justin Richards – Doctor Who : The Time Lord Letters – BBC £20
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New Books

 

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  • Ernest Cline – Armada – Century £16.99
  • Joshua Gaylord – When We were Animals – Del Rey £12.99
  • Laurell K Hamilton – Dead Ice – Headline £ 19.99
  • Robin Hobb – Fool’s Assassin – Harper £8.99
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  • Mark Hodder – The Return of the Discontinued Man – Del Rey £8.99
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  • Erika Johansen – The Invasion of the Tearling – Bantam £14.99
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  • Una McCormack – Doctor Who: Royal Blood – BBC £6.99
  • Alexander Maskill – The Hive Construct – Corgi £7.99
  • Weston Ochse – grunt Traitor – Solaris £7.99
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  • Gary Russell – Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation – BBC £6.99
  • Yrsa Sigurdardottir – The Undesired – Hodder £14.99 (October)

 

New and forthcoming books

Best SFF vol9b

  • Joe Abercrombie – Half the World – Harper £8.99
  • James Brogden — Evocations — The Alchemy Press £10.99
  • Mike Brooks – Dark Run – Del Rey £8.99
  • Eric Brown & Una McCormack – The Baba Yaga – Abaddon £7.99
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  • Christopher Golden – Star Wars: Dark Disciple – Century £19.99
  • Terry Goodkind – The Law of Nines – Harper £8.99
  • Laurell K Hamilton – Dead Ice – Headline £19.99
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  • Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Midnight – Solaris £7.99 (November)
  • Paul Kane — Monsters — The Alchemy Press £10.99
  • Drew Karpyshyn – The Scorched Earth – Del Rey £8.99
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  • James Luceno – Star Wars: Tarkin – Arrow £8.99
  • KM McKinley – The Iron Ship – Solaris £7.99
  • George Mann – Doctor Who: Engines of War – BBC £7.99
  • Gail Z Martin & Larry N Martin – Iron & Blood – Solaris £7.99
  • George RR Martin, Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patteron – A Game of Thrones (graphic novel volume 4) – Harper £14.99
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  • Jonathan Strahan (ed) – The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (volume 9) – Solaris £13.99
  • Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes – Harper £12.99
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time – Tor £18.99
  • JRR Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien – Beowulf – Harper £10.99
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  • Guy Adams – A Few Words for the Dead – Del Rey £8.99
  • Clive Barker – The Scarlet Gospels – Macmillan £18.99
  • Lauren Beukes – Broken Monsters – Harper £7.99
  • Peter V Brett – The Skull Throne – Harper £18.99
  • Charlaine Harris – Day Shift – Gollancz £18.99
  • Paul S Kemp – Star Wars: Lords of the Sith – Century £19.99
  • Mark Lawrence – Prince of Fools – Harper £8.99
  • George RR Martin & Lisa Tuttle – Windhaven – Gollancz £16.99
  • John Jackson Miller – Star Wars: A New Dawn – Arrow £8.99
  • Peter Newman – The Vagrant – Harper £14.99
  • Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – The Long Utopia – Doubleday £18.99 (June)
  • Alastair Reynolds – Poseidon’s Wake –Gollancz £18.99
  • Justin Richards – The Blood Red City – Del Rey £8.99
  • Andrzej Sapkowski – Sword of Destiny – Gollancz £16.99
  • Liesel Schwarz – Sky Pirates – Del Rey £8.99
  • Tad Williams – Sleeping Late on Judgement Day – Hodder £8.99

 

 

New books

 

Recent (and one forthcoming)  books

  • Joe Abercrombie – Half the World –Harper £12.99
  • Mike Chinn — Give Me These Moments Back — Alchemy Press £9.99
  • James S A Corey – Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves – Arrow £8.99
  • Jan Edwards — Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties — Alchemy Press £6.99
  • Francesca Haig – The Fire Sermon – Harper £12.99
  • Kevin Hearne – Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi – Century £19.99
  • Kameron Hurley – Rapture – Del Rey £8.99
  • Tom Isbell – The Prey – Harper £7.99
  • Emmi Itaranta – Memory of Water – Harper £7.99
  • Tom Lloyd – Old Man’s Ghosts – Gollancz £16.99
  • Peter Newman – The Vagrant –Harper £14.99
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  • Justina Robson – Glorious Angels – Gollancz £16.99
  • David A Sutton — Dead Water and Other Weird Tales — Alchemy Press £9.99
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  • Adrianne ‘Tex’ Thompson – Medicine for the Dead – Solaris £7.99
  • David Wingrove – The Ocean of Time – Del Rey £14.99
  • David Wingrove – The Empire of Time – Del Rey £8.99

 

New books

New and recent publications:

  • Joe Abercrombie – Half a King – Harper £8.99
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  • Guy Adams – The Rain-Soaked Bride – Del Rey £8.99
  • Neal Asher – Dark Intelligence – Tor £18.99
  • Dave Bara – Impulse – Del Rey £8.99
  • Jonathan Barnes – Cannonbridge – Solaris £7.99
  • John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard – Empire – Headline £16.99
  • Maurice Druon – The King Without a Kingdom – Harper £16.99
  • Maurice Druon – The Lily and the Lion – Harper £8.99
  • James Goss – Haterz – Solaris £7.99
  • John Grant – Tell No Lies – The Alchemy Press £9.99
  • Will Hill – Department 19: Zero Hour – Harper £8.99
  • Dean Koontz – Saint Odd – Harper £18.99
  • Rebecca Levene – Smiler’s Fair – Hodder £8.99
  • James Lovegrove – The James Lovegrove Collection Volume One – Solaris £10.99
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  • Brandon Sanderson – Firefight – Gollancz £16.99
  • Joe Schreiber – Star Wars: Maul Lockdown – Arrow £8.99
  • E J Swift – Tamaruq – Del Rey £8.99

Forthcoming:

  •  Francesca Haig – The Fire Sermon – Harper £12.99 (February)
  • Peter Newman – The Vagrant – Harper £ 14.99 (April)