Thursday, August 4, 2011


Author William Sleator (1945-2011) has died.

Sleator's House of Stairs was one of my defining reads in middle-school, and no doubt had a lot to do with my interest in sff later. The grim story is about a group of teenage orphans who are kidnapped and dumped in the "house of stairs,"(an Escherian disaster meant to throw the kids off-balance) in a rather brutal attempt at brainwashing.

I reread this one not all that long ago, and found it as compelling as when I was 12. The characters were  -- and still are, a bit -- unusual for young-adult literature: the narrator, Pete, is mildly autistic (I think) and Lola is quite aggressive, and not in the cutesy, punky way so many are now.

With the resurgence of dystopian YA, House of Stairs should still be a huge success, but maybe it isn't a pretty enough dystopia.

Another of Sleator's books that I remember fondly is Into the Dream, which I read when I was younger. Classmates Paul and Francine find that they are having the same nightmare, a vision filled with dread that leaves them exhausted and terrified. They follow clues from the dreams to find a damaged little boy and a mysterious event that ties the three of them together. It's a fine example of old-fashioned suspense.

Rest in peace.

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