House of Stairs by William Sleator

Five orphan teens find themselves trapped in a room filled with nothing but stairs, which quickly turns into an experiment that may have no end.

House of Stairs is a book I read about a zillion times when I was a kid. The scenario enthralled me–a seemingly endless room with stairs as far as the eye can see, and a machine dispensing pellets of food as long as the kids performed a bizarrely elaborate dance. Things get darker when the machine changes its requirements, forcing the kids to tap into their inner torturers and terrorists.

Because House of Stairs is YA, it doesn’t delve the depths of horror achieved by Jose Saramago’s Blindness, for example, but it does get pretty dark. I’m surprised I wasn’t scarred for life reading about the ways that people can be evil to one another in this book and in The Chocolate War, but as a teen (and now) I was a very trusting person who is always surprised when people treat me badly. The 5-point Calvinist I am should know better, but I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I would’ve been eaten alive in the House of Stairs!

3 thoughts on “House of Stairs by William Sleator”

  1. OK, I know this is a tangent, but I’ve got to ask: what is a five-point Calvinist, as opposed to a garden-variety Calvinist?

  2. I remember finding this book horrifying and compelling when I was young, too. I probably read it three or four times. It was freaky!

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