Dissident Reviews #7: House Anon by Corporate Clarke
The very word teambuilding is enough to elicit The Fear in me, spastic spasms of sweat-drenched night-time terror. House Anon follows a nameless narrator on a teambuilding trip from hell. But this is much more than a tale of simple horror.
Anon is a 42 year-old Director of Customer Support at Whatever Inc. He married the wrong woman. He does not have enough contact with his children. He is dating a “dancer in a bar” much younger than himself.
Yet, while this story has philosophical weight in the vain of Ayn Rand’s Anthem, it is not to the effect that Anon is a victim.
Or at least, not principally. True, he is surrounded by people he doesn’t understand. His job is meaningless, his boss pretentious and his colleagues overly-sensitive and remote.
But the real message here can be reduced to one thing, which can only be attributed to Jordan Peterson. Tyranny starts with the small stuff. So don’t let them pass unchallenged.
Generally, I would counsel against attempting to weave a political point into a narrative. It is hard enough to tell a good story. Making a point at the same time is a task to which few are equal. But Corporate Clarke manages it here.
House Anon has excellent pacing. It has believable characters—people—not tropes or archetypes. The sentences have rhythm. No words go to waste. The narration is in the first person, present tense, one of the more limiting perspectives, but which I had the sense was the natural one here due to the skill with which the author uses it.
In the darkness the sea is menacing. I can hear its massive body but only see its fingertips.
Clarke deploys repetition to great effect, and the line between dream and reality gives him a creative freedom he uses but does not abuse. The book has tension. Mood. Suspense. I read it in one sitting.
House Anon reminded me of Kafka for its absurd aspects. Stephen King’s The Shining. Mann’s The Magic Mountain without the annoying philosophical dialogue which ruined that supposed masterpiece.
Then I’m floating down the corridor towards the dining room. It’s set up with cloaked, gold trollies of food. Who prepared them? Why does nobody else care where all of this food is coming from?
Our narrator is intriguing. Flawed, yes, but in a system which is far worse. He is empathic to the point of pathology, a handicap that brings him closer to others than anyone should like to be.
The book touches on the soft tragedy of time’s passage. The gulf this puts between us and those whose age we once shared. The alienating effects of technology, which has only accelerated since 2020.
If the film Get Out were a man, House Anon would be his evil twin. For my part, I have always been attracted to the darker side of art. I think it gets closer to the truth.
House Anon is a seriously impressive work. A cry out from No Man living on the margins of the commercial landscape as much as the literary, both of which wail in the corner of a musty old house like, to use the words of a one-time anon, some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead.
House Anon is independently published and is available for purchase here.
About Dissident Reviews:
In this series, I plan to review—in a spirit of objectivity and constructive criticism—“dissident” works, by which I mean works establishment publishing houses would overlook for ideological reasons. My motivations for doing so are to:
discover works from outside the mainstream, which I consider politicised and uninteresting;
network with like-minded writers;
promote work I consider good and offer what I hope will be useful critiques for that I think could be better; and
promote my own work.
I am an Australian writer living in France. I am in the process of publishing a three-novel series—the first of which is available here—and have had non-fiction published in Quadrant and Quillette magazines and The Australian newspaper.
Authors are welcome to use quotes from these reviews (with attribution). If you would like me to review your book please get in touch via my Twitter page.