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House of Another Kind


Tower, New York, 1981
(price: $2.25; 240 pages)

The blurb on the back:

1991 America is perched on the brink of revolution, and now the country must face the terrifying fact of an extraterrestrial visit - or invasion.
Constructed by unknown alien hands, the strange house in the forest pulsates with an eerie blue light-force. Speculation as to its intent only escalates tensions, which soon explode into a nationwide struggle for power...
But will the structure remain dormant? What secrets lie behind its open door? Does it bring peace - or destruction...

opening lines:
On December 26, 1991, the halls of the American Congress were cloaked as usual in holiday silence, all, that is, except the vaulted corridor that led to the Senate Armed Services Committee Room.

In the middle of a dense forest in Florida, two hunters stumble upon a hitherto undiscovered clearing. In it stands a perfect reproduction of a typical house of the American suburbs. Who put it there? And how? More to the point, as further inquiries are made, what does it all mean? Because, despite appearances, this is not a normal house. It is made from a single piece of unknown and indestructible material, a complete imitation of a dwelling that copies every last detail of middle-Americana, right down to the contents of the 'fridge.

The conclusion of a scientific committee of investigation is that this is not a human structure. The technology displayed is so far in advance of anything yet achieved on Earth that only one deduction is possible: it comes from space.

At which point, the implicit presence of aliens becomes the dominant, indeed the only, issue in the 1992 Presidential election campaign, which splits into a three-way race between the decent but ineffectual incumbent, an astro-physicist specializing in extra-terrestrial intelligence who runs as an independent to pick up the youth support, and a right-wing Senator who plays on xenophobic fears about alien invasion. It is the latter who attracts the most attention, as his campaign veers dangerously toward fascism, sparking fears that America might be headed towards an elected dictatorship...

If you want to study the psyche of an era, you can do much worse than read the populist literature, particularly that which cleaves to the horror tradition. Stephen King's 1979 novel The Dead Zone resolved on the potential election of an ultra-populist right-wing demagogue; two years later there appeared this book and The Hell Candidate, both mining the same seam. Maybe those of us who live in the client states of the USA should count ourselves lucky that we got off so lightly with nothing more than the election of Ronald Reagan.

I know nothing about William Fritts, who he is or what else he might have written. I can find no reference to him on the Internet, nor in the catalogues of the British Library or the Library of Congress. Which is a curious condition for a relatively modern writer. This is not a classic, but it is a neat little piece of work. Apart from anything else, it's one of the few books about an extra-terrestrial presence on Earth that has no interest whatsoever in the aliens themselves.


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The Hell Candidate