House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge (REVIEW)

A part of the New Bizarro Authors Series, House Hunter represents the debut novella from S.T. Cartledge. It's a fun read, with a subject matter that is entirely fitting for the Bizarro style, along with a narrative style that makes it immediately accessible. Even those readers who don't regularly dabble in the Bizarro may find themselves drawn to this one.

Cleverly constructed around the theme of what makes a house a home, this is a story that's entirely self-aware of its puns, its tongue-in-cheek moments, and its literary influences. There are moments where you get caught up in the excitement, cheering Imogen on in her fantastic battles, that you entirely forget it's an entire freakin' house she's attempting to either take down or tame. In her world, just one half-step removed from our own, buildings are living, breathing, sentient creatures, loyal to their owners, and protective of themselves. Sometimes they do go rogue, however, and battling a multilevel dwelling that can crush you with a single step is a task best left to the professionals.

There are so many little touches here that keep the reader engaged, long after the initial novelty has worn off. Cartledge does something interesting with the idea of haunted houses that I quite liked; the twist on the proverbial Housing Association is a bit obvious, perhaps, but fun; and the mythology of the Jabberhouse is almost worthy of a story all on its own. There's a definite insect influence throughout the story, but it's never dwelt upon, allowing it to be just another part of the story/setting that occasionally pokes you in the arm and smiles back from the page.

The characters are a bit thin and lacking in emotion, but serviceable; the world-building is extraordinary; and the action very well-done. On the surface, there appeared to be some continuity/editing gaffes, but by the end I was wondering if they were intentional, and part of the story . . . which wouldn't surprise me for the genre. I was concerned about where it was all headed, and whether the conclusion could live up to the tale, but it's an entirely satisfying end to an interesting tale.