By Edward Carey
Published by Hot Key Books
ISBN 978 1 4714 01565
The Iremonger family is a large clan of weirdos who live in Heap House, an enormous rambling mansion made up of bits of reclaimed buildings from all over England. The house stands proudly in the middle of The Heaps, a massive landfill of rubbish collected from London's households.
Nothing is normal in Heap House. It's a confusing maze of corridors, staircases and cellars, packed tight with shadowy secrets and mysteries.
The Iremongers are a mean and cruel lot, who have made their fortune from the rubbish that surrounds their dwelling. Riches can be found in the vast landfill, and scavenging constantly turns up objects that can be traded or sold.
As each baby is born into the Iremonger dynasty, he or she is assigned a birth object, an everyday item that will stay attached to that person for life. Young Clod Iremonger's birth object is a bath-plug. One day, Clod hears his bath-plug say the name "James Henry Hayward". Poor Clod has no idea why his bath-plug goes on repeating this unknown name. What does this unknown male have to do with the Iremongers?
Things get even odder for Clod when other birth objects in the house start to mumble names. Cousin Bornobby's shoe says "Cecily Grant" every time Clod passes by. Grandmother's mantle shelf mumbles "Augusta Ingrid Ernesta Hoffman" and Uncle Aliver's forceps murmur "Percy Hotchkiss". Who are all these people? And why is Clod the only person who can hear them?
Something very strange is going on, and Clod senses that disaster is just around the corner for the smug Iremongers. As he listens to the voices all around him, he discovers that the Iremonger birth objects and the very Heaps themselves are more sinister than they appear. Some very dark secrets could be about to surface that could wipe out the Kings of Rubbish for ever.
Edward Carey's Heap House is an astonishing and unique read that is inventive and totally over-the-top, but with the author keeping such a tight grip on the story, things never become confusing.
Surreal and continually surprising, Heap House conjures up a dark and distorted picture of Victorian London that is gripping, a bit scary and often very amusing. This peculiar and superbly printed fantasy is the first of a promised trilogy. Can things get weirder in books two and three? It's going to be great fun finding out.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com