The House of Writers by M.J. Nicholls

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Grade A

Two things tend to happen with me when I read a great book: first, I don’t want it to end, second, it makes me want to be a writer. As for M.J. Nicholls’ wildly imaginative and biting, nay, jawbreaking satire The House of Writers, I’ll just say I didn’t want it to end and leave it at that. As alluring as the possibility is of being a “starred”author or Oprah’s next book club pick or the creator of a blockbuster office bondage series with an initialed nom de plume, authors clearly do not have an easy go of it. In the dystopian Scotland of Nicholls’ future, writers are practically obsolete, save for the lucky(?) few who reside in an Escher-like puzzle of a building called the House of Writers who toil away on the high rise’s genre-specific floors (and I mean high rise in the most Ballard of ways), creating custom novels funded by the few voracious—and extremely picky—readers who still exist. It’s either that or work for Scotland’s call center. That’s the simplest way to explain the novel’s premise, but there’s really nothing simple about this book or its premise. Every chapter is as dense with ideas as any book I’ve read this year, and every page brought something unexpected, something outlandish, something hilarious—the suicide pact of famous authors in the future at a publishing party is reason enough alone to pick this book up. Yes, I didn’t want it to end, and in a way it still made me want to be a writer, but I’m not; I’m a reader and Nicholls’ masterful, ingenious, pitch black shotgun blast through the eyes of the publishing industrial complex is so excellent and so bizarre and so original that my words fail to do it justice. The House of Writers is the ultimate bite on the hand that feeds it and Nicholls is too good, I suspect, to ever have to worry about being stationed in the future in the house he envisions.

The House of Writers available now.

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