Into the Book

...

While perusing the bookstore the other day, I happened to pick up a copy of House – a novel collaboratively written by best-selling Christian authors Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. I was intrigued by the description on the back cover, which dubbed the book a “mind-bending supernatural thriller”. I had read and enjoyed other “thrillers” before. So, why not check this one out? After all, I’ve always been one for complex stories that mess with your head.

Needless to say, I took the book home with me and started reading eagerly. It was my first headlong dive into the world of Peretti and Dekker. And it will probably be my last. House is dark and dismal – and it’s authors do poorly what others have done well.

The premise, in a nutshell, is this: Seven people – four men, three women – end up trapped inside an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere. No lights. No phones. No way to get out. And to make things worse, the entire set-up has been engineered by a criminal – a demonic psychopath who wants them to play a little game: he wants one dead body… or everybody dies. One game. Seven players. Time’s up at dawn.

First off, let me say that this book is better classified in the horror genre than in that of suspense. Indeed, the Peretti/Dekker team appears to derive an uncanny pleasure in creating a consistently sadistic atmosphere that virtually never lets up. Almost reminiscent of Stephen King. And with that said, what do we have on our hands? A “Christian horror” novel? Does anybody else smell an oxymoron?

There is a fine – a very fine – line between the genres of suspense and horror. I’m all for suspense. Don’t get me wrong. It can add incredible new dimensions to a story. But horror is a different matter altogether. Horror is nightmares on steroids. Evil and darkness and sin are held up, and we gape at them in a sort of depraved awe and wonder, egged on by a sense of perverted curiosity. Instead of exalting God as the sole object of our fear and awe and wonder, we exalt darkness and tremble at the deeds of darkness.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

I am all for claiming every area of life for Christ. But the genre of horror is – by very definition – evil. It is anti-Christian. And it should be left alone.

I’m sure there are those who’d argue that the Salvation message at the end of House is what ultimately redeems it. I would contend otherwise. To be sure, the book manages to score a few points about the depravity of man and the need for redemption: but not only do these messages feel tacked on, one must wade through mediocre writing and a sadistic atmosphere to get to them. Really, is it worth it?

No. Not when there’s a plethora of other fiction that explores these same themes in a much fuller, deeper, better way. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a prime example. Or C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Or Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Why mess with House when you can delve into treasures like these?

– Corey P.

Published on 29 July, 2011. Last updated on

16 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    I’ve read this book and I would definitely agree. I liked the writing, and the story is interesting, but I’m not sold on the “Christian” part of it. Sure, the authors tried to add a little message at the end, but I don’t really get it. Personally, they should’ve just written the novel without adding the “Christian” part to it, and then the Christian reader wouldn’t be expecting something that, in the end, falls short.

  2. Corey P.

    @Jennifer: Agreed. As I read the book, it seemed like Peretti/Dekker took a slasher-like storyline from Hollywood, and then slapped on a “Christian” ending so evangelicals could feel “good” about reading it. Pretty lame, if you ask me.

    Which leads me to the reason I dislike the vast majority of modern “Christian” fiction: the authors can’t even tell a good story, much less effectively incorporate the gospel into it.

    Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the comment! 🙂

  3. Kaitlyn E.

    The way I described my dislike for “Christian” horror to my Christian friends is this way: “Yes, there is a bit of treasure to be gleaned in some of these books, be that a redemption message, or the radical depravity of man. There is typically some little nugget of truth to be had, but on the whole, you are walking through a mine field to get to it.”

    Needless to say, I won’t read House. 😉 I’m with Corey. Suspense is good; Horror leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes you want to look over your shoulder while you are reading.

  4. Eustacia Tan

    I’m actually going to differ a little bit from you guys. I’ve read House, and while it’s not a piece of literature (but then, so few works are), I thought it was a pretty good story. I didn’t actually think it was horror, because it felt like a mystery to me.

    I have probably read much more “horror” as you see it in history textbooks. How can you study WWII, WWI or any war, be it the Sino-Russian war or even the Taiping rebellion without reading about much worse than this? But this doesn’t mean we shun reading history. I propose looking at it differently. The authors here aren’t trying to exalt darkness and evil, I think they’re trying to contrast evil with good, which is why they use a crude but rather effective method of contrasting two extremes.

    I actually wouldn’t place the other books Corey recommened in the same profile. The pilgrim’s progress is an (effective) allegory, but doesn’t contain much suspense or explore human condition much because it’s too obvious. Narnia is a work of genius. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde seems to explore the role of the shadow versus the self (in Jungian terms). Perhaps a better book to use as a comparison would be Lord of the Rings?

  5. Corey P.

    @Eustacia: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. As Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron.” (Prov. 27:17) 🙂

    However, I really cannot see how House can be construed as anything other than “horror”. The story reads like the screenplay for a Hollywood slasher-flick. One reviewer on Amazon noted that it had elements of ‘Saw’,’The Cube’, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Those films are indisputably classified in the genre of “Horror”. Peretti/Dekker just prettied their story up with a “Christian” ending.

    I don’t think it’s right to equate the “horror” we see in history with the “horror” we read in fiction. They are two different things. It’s one thing to read about atrocities like the ones you mentioned.; it’s another thing to immerse yourself in the dark world of a horror novel with the purpose of getting yourself scared silly.

    As I said, horror is all about reveling in darkness and evil. I just can’t see how a history book does that. History shows us horror; fictional stories like House wallow in it.

    Also, if Peretti/Dekker were attempting to contrast good and evil, I think they failed big time. We saw plenty of twisted, depraved evil, but very little of good. If they’re making a statement about the depravity of man, as Christians, should they not also make an equally strong statement about the saving grace of Christ?

    As for the books I mentioned…

    Pilgrim’s Progress is a powerful allegory of the Christian life; as such, it cannot help but explore the depths of man’s depravity and the greater depths of God’s redemption – something House fails to do. Narnia contains elements of allegory, too, and touches on many of the same themes. And whether R.L. Stevenson meant it to or not, Jekyll & Hyde paints a vivid picture of the battle between man and his sin nature.

    Again, thanks for commenting. I enjoy discussing these issues with people. 🙂

  6. Eustacia Tan

    @Corey: Hmmm… Thanks for sharing. I never felt House as scary, but I guess it may just be a cultural difference. Thanks for the reply, it gave me another viewpoint to see the book(:

  7. Michael Wright

    Well, I read House in a day and a half (it was Christmas, so I was doing other things) and I can say that it was a lot different than Peretti and Dekker’s other stuff. Frank Peretti is doubtlessly the better of the two, his books “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” are kind of a Screwtape letters mixed with fantasy and spiritual content, they are good. Dekker, though, is certainly more liberal. His new books (Immanuel’s Veins, The Bride Collector, Boneman’s Daughter) should not be marketed as Christian at all. They are worldly, have no spiritual meaning and contain way too many allusions to sex and language that is intolerable for the Christian market. For your first exposure to these guys, this was not the best choice, I can say that. But this was really where you can get a feel for who Dekker really is. Peretti is a way different writer though, his other books are far more worth your time.

  8. Corey P.

    @Michael: I may have to check out some other stuff by Peretti in the future, but I’ll certainly be leaving Dekker alone. 🙂

    Good to see you stopped by!

  9. BushMaid

    Great review, I agree with it. 🙂

    I found this book so weird. I spent half the time reading it getting scared out of my wits, and the other half wondering what was going on. Also, by the time I finished it, a feeling of daftness was added to the mix because I really didn’t get the moral of the story. The book’s sole reason seemed to be to scare the reader to death, confuse them in the meantime, and allude to some greater good in the ending.

    Anyway, definitely not one I would recommend either.

  10. Anonymous

    one thing i can say is this:i am thoroughly disappointed Peretti agreed to write with dekker.Like a previous comment mentioned,Peretti is a far superior and most importantly honest writer.I think he realises that collaborating on house was a mistake as he has tried to distance himself from the concept on some interviews,saying the idea really came from Ted and that he merely wrote the first few chapters.

    Try to read some of Peretti’s own works,especially the darkness novels,the oath or the visitation,those books are very good.

  11. Anonymous

    Although i see where you’re coming from, i would have to disagree. People keep saying that its “evil” or “horror” and yes, it is. Just as we as sinners are evil. In order to make us examine ourselfs and realize the everpresent evil ( or sin) inside all of us, the authors create a world where it is so obvious there is no way we could overlook it.

  12. Corey P.

    Horror isn’t as much about exposing evil, as it is about reveling in it. There’s a difference.

    Besides, Peretti and Dekker are professing Christians; if they go to such great lengths to portray the Darkness, why wouldn’t they do the same for the Light?

    Christians have a responsibility – not only to bring attention to sin – but also to point to the One Who saves from sin. The salvation message at the end of House is weak and unmemorable compared to the depravity and sinfulness which pervades the rest of the book. And that strikes me as pretty lop-sided.

Leave a Reply


ABOUT ItB REVIEWS

Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin