Yesterday, on my bus ride home, I finished Ian Rogers‘ debut collection Every House is Haunted. I’d read it over the last three days, and I couldn’t have asked for better material to close out the Halloween season.
Full disclosure, before I get into the meat of this review: Ian and I are friends, though we’ve only met in person a couple of times. I’ve known him since we were both published together in Bound for Evil back in 2008, and we both did our first ever book signing at that year’s Readercon. You can rest assured, though, that while our friendship affects how excited I am to see him have such a handsome book in print, it wouldn’t be enough to make me be as effusive in my praise as I am about to be.
Every House is Haunted, in addition to having a great title, is about as assured a debut collection as you’re ever likely to find. Ian writes in the grand tradition of folks like Stephen King, Richard Matheson (albeit with fewer Twilight Zone endings), or Shirley Jackson, but he also manages to make the stories entirely his own. Many of the stories involve haunted houses, as you might gather from the title, but rarely are they haunted in the usual sense. Many other stories, including some of my favorites, feature a sort of blue collar approach to the supernatural. The agencies that deal with the occult in Ian’s world are believably bureaucratic, peopled with the kinds of folks you’d find working in cubicles in any office building.
In fact, a big part of what makes Ian’s stories so good is their very human heart. While often ominous or creepy (and occasionally very funny), the stories in Every House is Haunted never feel the least bit mean-spirited. There’s always a warmth and sympathy at the center of each story, no matter how grim the subject matter becomes.
I have favorites from the book, of course. “Cabin D,” “The Cat,” and “Inheritor” all jump to mind. But really, it’s not any one story or stories that makes Every House such a success, but the way they combine to form a whole that is more than the sum of even its (already quite exceptional) parts.