House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge follows Imogen, a house hunter by trade. But she isn’t your typical, everyday house hunter. Imogen hunts down and trains wild houses. You see, in her world, houses, skyscrapers, temples, and pretty much every structure is a living (and moving) creature. When she becomes wise to a plot by the House Hunters Association (think of the most evil Homeowners’ Association you can think of) to find and control the Jabberhouse, a building of legend, and remake cities in their image, she has to stay one step ahead of them and find the Jabberhouse before they do.
House Hunter is part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Authors Series of books, meaning that this is author’s first published novel. Unfortunately, it shows.
Let me start with what I like about this book. The world the author has come up with is certainly interesting and imaginative. The idea of an actual house hunter is kind of cool, if not a little funny. The various creatures are great, and the idea that even ancient legendary structures like temples and castles could be living creatures of great power is an awesome idea, and I had very little trouble picturing the scenes in my head, even playing them out like a movie. The author is great at describing scenes and battles, making this one of the more action-packed books in this year’s NBAS so far. It adds a sense of fun to the book.
However, there are editing problems. So far, the other books I have read in this year’s NBAS have not fallen into this trap, something I’ve complained about with several bizarro books in the past. It’s been a pleasant surprise, as technical editing is something that sticks in my craw and can really take a reader off the page and out of a story if it’s not done properly. Sadly, “House Hunter” seems to have fallen into this trap, and there are enough editing mistakes to make it a problem for me, especially for such a short book.
But that’s a technical issue. What about the story, you might be asking? Well, it’s okay. It’s not bad, but it ends up not being anything all that special or unusual, especially in such a unique world. It also feels like we’re supposed to know a lot more about what’s going on than we do. It feels like there’s supposed to be a much bigger story here that we aren’t getting to see. There isn’t enough explanation for what’s going on. There’s some motivation for the characters and the action sequences, but that’s about it.
Another issue I have is with the main character, Imogen. Honestly, I just couldn’t bring myself to like her. She’s supposed to be this great house hunter, compared in the Editor’s Note to Lara Croft, but I don’t see it. She alternates between crying over little things or a basic fight to being completely focused and unfazed by huge battles. When she loses her own house, she gets over it way too quickly, and it makes her seem cold, which is a huge change what from we had just seen of her character only pages before. It made her character confusing, and a little cookie cutter, like she was being jammed into a preset mold without being able grow on her own.
Ultimately, what I think it comes down to is that the author was so caught up in world-building (which is done really, really well and created high expectations) that he got lost in his own world. Sometimes this is good, and can really make it an immersive story. Unfortunately, I think he got a little too lost, to the point that it detracted from a lot of other things. Because of the world-building alone, I wanted to like this so much more, but the other issues are significant enough that it made it very hard to get past them, and I have to give it a very middle-of-the-road review.
House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge earns 2.5 spider-bears out of 5.