FACTOID # 21: 15% of Army recruits from South Dakota are Native American, which is roughly the same percentage for female Army recruits in the state.
 
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Encyclopedia > The House of Stairs (William Sleator novel)

The House of Stairs (1974) (ISBN 0140345809) is a science fiction novel by William Sleator. While it is typically labeled as young adult fiction, it deals with fairly sophisticated issues and has a persistently disturbing tone, so it may not be suitable for pre-teens. 1974 (MCMLXXIV) was a common year starting on Tuesday. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... William Sleator (1945-) is a noted science fiction author who writes primarily for the so-called junior adult audience (pre-teens and adolescents), but has also occasionally written for younger audiences. ...

Overview

Five sixteen-year-old orphans of widely varying personalities are kidnapped and placed in a strange building located somewhere in a dystopian future United States. The building is neither a prison, nor a hospital. It has no walls, no ceiling, no floor: nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere. On one landing is a basin of running water that serves as a toilet, hand-bath and drinking fountain; on another, a machine with lights that occasionally produces food. The five must learn to deal with each other, the lack of privacy, their apparent helplessness and the strange machine that only feeds them under increasingly exacting circumstances. Soon, it becomes clear that they are unwilling subjects in a psychological experiment on conditioned human response. The question then becomes: Is death preferable to allowing the hidden authorities to reprogram their minds?


Analysis

Some have remarked on how Sleator's book has less in common with the work of fellow young adult horror author R. L. Stine than the respected writings of Franz Kafka. Many readers have found the novel's plausibility, paranoid tone, eerie imagery and jarring finale far more haunting than stories of werewolves or vampires. Horror fiction is, broadly, fiction in any medium intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. ... R. L. Stine. ... Kafka redirects here. ...


A few critics have derided The House of Stairs as a carbon copy of William Golding's classic, The Lord of the Flies. Others, however, see it as the polar opposite, since the protagonists are not in danger of degenerating into savage anarchy, but of crystalizing into a thoughtless mechanical existence. Some suggest that the moral to Sleator's story is a far more sophisticated message than Golding's, which is, at least on one level, a simple exhortation for children to behave politely. Sleator, on the other hand, is actively encouraging his young readers to rebel against abusive authority. Sir William Gerald Golding (September 19, 1911 – June 19, 1993) was a British novelist, poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1983), best known for his work Lord of the Flies. ... A Lord of the Flies cover Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author William G. Golding. ...


 
 

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