Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kitty's House of Horrors

Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn
Published by Tor Books

Kitty's House of Horrors is Carrie Vaughn's seventh book in this series. Normally, I would not bother to do a review of a fiction book so deeply into a series but Vaughn has managed to write a such a good book that I recommend it even to those who have not read books 1-6. In fact, I think this may very well be one of the strongest books she has produced in this series. Vaughn does a good job introducing the story arc without letting in get in the way of the current plot. I include it here because the narrative is from a very different point of view and the book brings up some interesting theological questions. When secular books tackle theology, it makes me wonder how often in the general public are these same or similar questions being asked.

If you don't know anything about Vaughn's books, I have to tell you that you must suspend reality in order to accept that the main protagonist is a radio talk show host who also happens to be a werewolf.  And her name is Kitty.

My Impressions

The first thing that Vaughn does is take some punches to what has become America's viewing obsession: reality television shows. The main part of the story is about a group of people (mostly famous) who are placed in a house far away from civilization while being filmed 24/7. They are, for the most part, not friends with one another and there is one cynic  among them who can really stir up strife and dissension. In addition, Vaughn adds another element in which they become isolated from civilization and begin to be killed off one by one. So, while taking some pokes at reality television, we begin to have a mystery, `a la Dorothy Sayers. What is amusing is that the characters quickly realize that they are living out a real horror movie and take what steps they can to prevent being alone and opening themselves up to termination.

The unusual part is that all these "people" in the house are what we might define as actual horror characters: a couple of werewolves, another shape shifter, a wizard, two vampires, a psychic, someone who communicates with the dead, a radio personality (really two of these) and an atheist. Vaughn has cleverly positioned us in a place where the typical horror character now becomes the victim and you, the reader, begin to side with what would normally be called "the bad guys."

I won't give away much more of the plot but I do have to say that you can't depend on all your favorite characters making it to the last chapter. I really like that because I hate it when books become too predictable. Warning: there are some gory moments as well as some sorcery. 

How the book speaks to my faith

Who are the bad guys in my life? Can I clearly identify who is bad and who is good? Even though I don't interact with vampires and werewolves, I know some folks who act like that. They drain other folks dry or let themselves become animals when the moon is full...or at any other opportunity. But can I judge them so quickly? What do I do with folks who act nice and Christian on the outside but go home and abuse family members? There are a lot of "nice" Christians who are also have addictions of one kind or another. When their addictions rule their lives (and they will do this), am I speaking to the person or the addiction? How can I trust someone who is like this? Vaughn really makes me think about who I label as good or bad. Also makes me realize that it is in God that I must fully trust!

What do you say about a God who "allows" bad things to happen? Many people and theologians have tackled that question. It also haunts those folks in the secular world who do not consider themselves to be Christian. They struggle with that question as well as we do. I have a hard time accepting that bad things happen just because it is God's will. I also struggle with accepting that it is humanity's own fault: is it because of our Sin or Sinful nature that causes suffering in the world? I don't have an answer. Neither does Vaughn. But her characters wrestle with these issues.

What happens when the humans act inhumanely and only the weirdos have morals? The same question could be posed in countries where a ruler is brought to power and uses that same power to crucify their own people. Vaughn seems to suggest that being human does not automatically make you a good person. I came away from the book thinking that Vaughn has also attacked atheists in her own way.

Which brings up the last question that I have. Does actually seeing the impossible cause someone to believe in God? Would a miracle make an atheist believe? The bible, specifically Luke 16:19-31,  suggests that this would not create belief. Jesus says that a person who doesn't believe Moses and the prophets wouldn't believe if someone was raised from the dead either. However, this does raise another question: who then can believe? I like how Vaughn has really made me think about these theological issues. I recommend her book, although it may not be for everyone.


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