Published by Flame Tree Press, ‘The Forever House’ is a contemporary horror novel from Bram Stoker award-winning author Tim Waggoner.
Waggoner is a writer willing to risk new techniques and writing styles, to utilise existing horror themes and experiment with these in order to rise above an oversaturated market.
This novel – which is a modern ‘haunted house’ story, is rife with atmosphere and a brimming sense of discomfort, pushing against the boundaries of mainstream genre fiction.
‘The Forever House’ of the title is an unoccupied home on a pleasant ‘suburbville’ location, Brookside Court, following a brutal murder there in the past.
The home remains empty until the arrival of new family, ‘The Eldreds’.
Together, ‘Father Hunger’, ‘Mother/Werewife’, the ‘Low Prince’, ‘Nonsister’ and Grandother (who rides in the trunk) form the supernatural and dysfunctional family who are looking for a place to call ‘home’, and to hunt.
Their feeding ground is now Brookside Court; it’s prey, the hapless residents.
Combining almost ‘Lynchian’ visuals with traditional horror tropes, Waggoner invents a number of surreal creatures to inhabit the world.
Firstly, we have ‘Machine Head’, butler to the Eldreds, who uses decaying bodies to attach himself to – yes, he is literally a sentient head – so that he may assist the family with their mission to terrorise the new neighbours. The vehicle the Eldreds use is the similarly absurd, ‘Car’; a personified, hellish automobile; a nightmare of Geiger-esque proportions.
When first spotted by local Neal, it appears as “the blackest black he’d ever seen … as if someone had taken a giant sheet of black construction paper and cut out the outline of a truck.”
There is the crux of the novel ‘The Forever House’.
Put simply; appearances can be deceiving.
Beneath the semblance of suburbia, and home, lies a buried darkness, easily teased out to reveal its truth.
It is the ‘rotten orange’ to borrow a turn of phrase from Shakespeare.
Walls and floors move, people can be tortured with a flick of the wrist.
Very much like the 80s movie The ‘Burbs, or perhaps the Twilight Zone Movie, there’s delightful irony in this book as neighbours critique each other based upon assumptions and appearances, yet no one is without fault or sins.
Waggoner has often dealt with themes of ‘other’ in his works.
Who is really the monster? Are actions more important than words?
Are any of us, truly, without sin?
After all, ‘Machine Head’, a disembodied mechanical being owned by the Eldreds is the one who shows heroism towards young Vivienne, the only child resident of Brookside Court.
Taking a risqué approach, Waggoner also shows a different side to Spencer; an abuse sufferer who has paedophilic tendencies he has never acted upon – through his transformation, from deviant to hero, showing a potential for character growth.
‘The Forever House’ is particularly relevant right now, as Waggoner explores how humans can band together, become better people, and thrive in the face of adversity, just we find ourselves doing amidst the current coronavirus crisis.
As such, it is a painful read, but most definitely essential for horror aficionados.