Mixing the invented and the real, The House of Rumour explores World War II spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming), occultism (Aleister Crowley), the West Coast science-fiction set (Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Philip K. Dick all appear), and the new-wave music scene of the 1980s. The decades-spanning, labyrinthine plot also weaves in the Jonestown massacre and Rudolf Hess, UFO sightings and B movies. Told in a variety of narrative voices, what at first appears to be a constellation of random events begins to cohere as the work of a shadow organization - or is it justcoincidence?
Tying the strands together is Larry Zagorski, an early pulp-fiction writer turned U.S. airman turned "American gnostic", who looks back on his long and eventful life, searching for connections between the seemingly disparate parts. The teeming network of interlaced secrets he uncovers has personal relevance - it mirrors a book of 22 interconnected stories he once wrote, inspired by the major arcana cards in the tarot.
Hailed by the Guardian as an heir to Don DeLillo’s Underworld, The House of Rumour is a tour de force that sweeps the listener through a century’s worth of secret histories.
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I loved this book.
I loved this book that was about nothing, but everything. It's not an alternate history, because the major historical events described did occur (WWII, Nazi occultism, JPL, the SF surge in popularity both in book and movie form, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jonestown, etc.). This was about perspective, about what these events *could* have looked like and meant to some of those involved on the fringes, and how truth vs. fact can be very subjective.
Arnott's characterizations were fascinating and complete. He made his characters very real, and very plausible. His arrangement of voices through the use of the Major Arcana of the Tarot made everything fit perfectly together. This was an enjoyable and satisfying read.
- Amy Jesionowski