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House of Stairs

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,082 Ratings  ·  415 Reviews
One by one, five sixteen-year-old orphans are brought to a strange building. It is not a prison, not a hospital; it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor. Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere ?except back to a strange red machine. The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives. But will they let it kill their souls? This chilling, suspens
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Library, 166 pages
Published August 11th 2008 by Paw Prints (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jubilation Lee
As a kid I was addicted to this book, which is fairly impressive given that at eight years old I doubt I understood half the words Sleator was using. ("Eventually we will have techniques to deal with individuals even as intractable as you"? Not so much.)

But seriously. I loved the cover, with the kids flinging themselves in all directions. I loved the semi-dystopian description of the future--never quite explained, but just *there* enough to be creepy. I loved the terrifyingly endless maze of st
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Lstirl
Dec 03, 2008 Lstirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chilling and suspenseful tale that stick with the reader for years to come.

This book is recommended for 9-12 year olds, however, I think it might be a bit intense for the younger side of this group, and I, as an adult, thoroughly enjoyed Slater's treatment of this psychological horror.

Personal Note: I read this book as a tween, and it stuck with me all these years. I remember not being able to put it down, and upon revisiting it, it is still just as fascinating to me. I read many of the Amazon
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Keeley
Oct 13, 2009 Keeley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After googling different phrases for a while, I finally found the name of the book I read when I was around 12 that catapulted me into my interest into psychology and the human mind. The story of five teenagers locked in a place that consisted only of stairs and landings, the way they were trained like Pavlov's dogs to respond to the demands of a machine for food, demands that became ever more horrible. I remember reading this and being horrified by concepts I couldn't quite yet really grasp, bu ...more
Chris
Young adult fiction must be a really tough genre to wrap your head around, for a writer. You have a story that you want to tell, and you have to tell it in such a way that it is simple enough for your target audience to read, yet engaging enough to keep them reading. The themes have to be familiar enough for them to understand and relate to, yet unusual enough to be interesting for them. Go too far in the wrong direction and you have a failure. So how does a YA writer do it, balancing all those ...more
Diana Welsch
Feb 04, 2015 Diana Welsch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I read this because it is the #1 answer to "What the hell was that crazy book I read 20 years ago?" questions. House of Stairs has showed up on LibraryThing's Name That Book group three times in the past year. Half of the YA books in that group turn out to be William Sleator. We got a Contact Us question the other day that turned out to be 2 William Sleator books. So I figured it was high time I read something by this mysterious man.

Jesus. There's a reason people remember it. This book was crazy
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Deborah Markus
May 22, 2015 Deborah Markus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
A modern classic. I read House of Stairs frequently as a child, and was happy to see this speculative novel from 1974 stands the test of time.

That's because Sleator wisely keeps the "futuristic" science fiction touches to a minimum. There's a very '70s reference to air pollution, but it isn't pivotal. The rest of the book is about what doesn't change: human nature.

I'm handing this to my son to read now. I have the feeling he'll be as riveted by it as I was at his age.
Trudi
I am insanely addicted attracted to stories about "the group in peril", when people are thrust into an alien setting absent of any social rules and obligations. Under such circumstances, it usually doesn't take long for humans to throw off the shackles of civilized conduct and resort to a more brutal "survival of the fittest" approach. That’s not just the pessimist in me coming out, but the realist.

What we become in extremis is both fascinating and frightening in the heroic heights we reach and
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Lee Davis
May 09, 2011 Lee Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the last entry in my YA Sci-Fi kick, but it's a high note to end on. I've spent more than half my life searching for this book. Really! I checked it out from the Lawrence Public Library when I was 9 or 10 and read the first 15 pages, and then it got away from me. I remember everything about it vividly--5 teenage orphans in a near-future distopia find themselves, without explanation, in a gigantic white room consisting only of endless staircases and a machine that irregularly disp ...more
Laura
Apr 01, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My, my, my, what a chilling book.

Five strangers - all orphans, all sixteen years of age - are released, blindfolded, into a mammoth gleaming white room full of stairs. They find each other and congregate around a machine that dispenses food upon correct behavioural patterns. Soon they are slaves to this machine, searching for the correct patterns, doing whatever they have to do to be fed. What follows is your classic deterioration of human nature.

Reading it, I was reminded a lot of the Maze Ru
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Lanie
Apr 22, 2016 Lanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1974, this book features 5 teenagers, trapped in a mysterious prison. As the story progresses we find out more about the five protagonist, and the world they came from.

The characters are all very different, though with superficial similarities. None of them were particularly sympathetic. It was curiosity about the situation rather than interest in the characters that kept me reading.

The book shows many of the paranoias of that time, the fear of the darkness inside ourselves, the fea
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Amanda Coppedge
Nov 19, 2013 Amanda Coppedge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, read-in-2013
Probably the first dystopian novel I ever read. Because of this book, near the beginning of season one of LOST I was already predicting the cages and fish-biscuits that would show up in season three.

UPDATE: Reread in 2013 after reading multiple times from ages 10-20. It has held up really well for a book written in the mid-1970s, besides some unfortunate stereotyping that was more common at the time.
Davem
Apr 13, 2013 Davem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
A bit dated more than 40 years and with a dedication which hints at the climax, but still....a very effective creepy tale and a parable which ought to leave the reader wondering: just why do I do things the way I do?

William Sleator was perhaps the perfect young adult author. He originally set out to write for adults, but shied from using excessive profanity and other elements "required" by publishers in adult novels. So....he wrote adult stories (for the most part) and populated them with teenag
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Roybot
Dec 10, 2012 Roybot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago, I saw a movie called The Cube. It's a sort of low-budget thriller/horror movie about a group of strangers who find themselves trapped in a maze of cube-like rooms full of traps. As I watched it, I found myself having a strong sense of deja-vu. Where had I seen this before? Why was the premise so familiar?

By the end of the movie, I was convinced that I had not seen it before, but had, instead, read something that was extremely similar. I was sure that The Cube was basically a
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Meagan
Jun 06, 2010 Meagan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fiction, suspense
William Sleator's suspenseful, almost sci-fi, novel is pretty old (even older than me, but don't tell anyone), but I think its lack of specific details means that it holds up pretty well. I also think that it's a good companion read for one of my favorites, The Hunger Games. Both books have a similar tone, although The Hunger Games is more tightly written, fast-paced, and suspenseful. What Sleator's book has is a really thought-provoking setup that asks you to think about humanity and how easily ...more
Mary JL
Aug 31, 2010 Mary JL rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any reader over age 15
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
A gripping psycholgical tale. Five orphans caugt up and manipulated in a terrifying experiment.

I cannot say I liked it--in the sense it is not meant to be liked. It is meant to make one think and that it does.

To me one disturbing thing is--in no way did I feel "This could never happen". Knowing what inhumane things HAVe been done, nothing like this 'experiment' actually happening would surprise me.

In only 176 pages, William Sleator delivers an unforgettable tale.

Btw, although often recommended
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Ficie
Nov 25, 2012 Ficie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The writing style is not so great, and the plot is -by now- quite outdated: from the mystery (which has already been played out many times with way more interesting variations) to the frankly unnecessary final explanation.
The real question is: why does Sleator hate fat people so much? Not only is Blossom the most vicious character - her meanness seems to be underlined, and increased, by her size. The fact that she is fat makes her repulsive, not only to the other characters but to the writer hi
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Melanie
2.5

You know that feeling when you anticipate a certain dish and when you eat it, you're like :\ at the end? Because you thought it was going to be sooooo amazing, but you're not even full at the end? Alas, this book has left me with an empty feeling. I so wanted to love it, because it sounded so good. It wasn't bad, but I was disappointed and left wanting more.

You got five 16 year old orphans who suddenly find themselves in a strange place that has stairs. The stairs are seemingly random and le
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Donna
Jun 17, 2015 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
This YA book, written in a simplistic style and old fashioned in tone, like an old Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mystery, had a complex story beneath the story, one of a sinister kind. This book reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode where a group of unsuspecting people are at the mercy of something or someone working against them. It's Lord of the Flies meets 1984 with a twist.

On the surface, not much happens as five 16 year old orphans are removed from their living situations, blindfolded, and aba
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Wendy Bousfield
Jan 28, 2015 Wendy Bousfield rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: Michele
Shelves: young-adult, dystopia
This young adult novel (1974) reflects Cold War paranoia: apprehension that the government will brainwash unwilling subjects into perfectly controllable weapons of war. Five sixteen-year-old orphans find themselves in a sterile maze-like environment, consisting entirely of stairs and landings. (Wikipedia notes that the setting is based on Escher’s (1953) lithograph: Relativity: http://www.scottmcd.net/artanalysis/?...). Besides one pool of water (toilet, drinking water, and bath), a machine with ...more
Rico
Dec 09, 2007 Rico rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taut juvenile fiction novel. It's a Lord-of-the-Flies-esque tale of a group of orphans who find themselves mysteriously left alone in a bizarre prison of endlessly interlocking stairs. Slowly they're turned against each other by a Pavlovian "food machine" that rewards violence. I won't give away the ending, but alas, adult readers will probably quickly figure out what's going on. As a teen, though, it made a real impression, and its message is maybe more relevant now than ever.
Lizzi Crystal
May 24, 2009 Lizzi Crystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not 5 stars for my enjoyment of the story, which gave me nightmares, but it was a perfect telling of the story. I would not have changed one thing. Stories of this genre are often told in crass, even vile ways, and I so much appreciated how the author treated this story about base humanity with dignity and respect, allowing me to focus on the characters and psychology rather than gruesome details. A definite 5 stars for the storytelling!
Mohsen
May 11, 2016 Mohsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
چندبار که پلک میزنی بالاخره میتونی اطرافت ببینی ولی باز هم هیچی نیست جز،پله و پله و باز هم پله!...
خانه پله ها شاهکاری از ویلیام اسلیتر هست که موقعیت بالا رو خلق کرده،محیطی به شدت عجیب و در عین حال ساده! اما داستان به همین سادگی پیش نمیره،نویسنده در طول داستان شخصیت های مختلفی رو وارد خانه پله ها میکنه سپس به توصیف و بررسی هر یک از اون ها و تعاملات آنها با هم میپردازه. تا کجا حاضر هستن برای بقا پیش برن؟! برای یک تکه غذا چه کار هایی از دستشون ساختست؟!
آیا روح انسان میشه به بهایی اندک خرید؟!...
کتاب
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Sebastian H
Feb 02, 2015 Sebastian H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a Psychology mayor, I have studied and am versed in the risks, benefits and limitations of conditioned reinforcement. To say that the experiment plotted out by the scientist of the book is unequivocally unethical, is to merely state the obvious. But what other experiments have been performed on real-life human beings, with similar, devastating effects? What charades are being performed even now, controling the population through study and marketing, through communication and the control of in ...more
Clark Kim
Apr 24, 2016 Clark Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always been interested in dystopian novel, which main characters suffer in a community or society that is undesirable. However, "House of Stairs" was different from other novel. In typical dystopian novel such as "The Handmaid's Tale" or "Brave New World" where a large group of people is under government's control, "House of Stairs" only contains five main characters trapped in a house with no walls or ceiling, but full of endless stairs. However, these books are very similar since it sho ...more
Kristen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sean Costello
Mar 11, 2015 Sean Costello rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacob
I didn't remember reading this as a kid until I checked out the book and saw the same cover I'd stared at when I was younger. It's kind of funny because this book is about psychological conditioning and I had a strong recognition reaction to the cover even though, like Singularity, I didn't actually remember any of the plot. In both cases, I think I didn't remember so much as internalize them. In Singularity I identified with the main character's major shift to develop independence, and in this ...more
Kiri
Jul 25, 2010 Kiri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an intriguingly creepy, even chilling, psychological science fiction story. In it, five 16-year-old orphans find themselves in a three-dimensional maze: The House of Stairs. Endless white stairs climb in every direction, with no exit. They gradually learn that the only way to get food is to perform specific actions in front of a machine that responds, sometimes, with a tasty reward. The main dramatic tension arises from the machine's changing responses that shape their behavior in a dire ...more
Sara
I remember loving the mad weirdness of William Sleator's books when I was a teen. I have particularly fond memories for Interstellar Pig (a book I still want to revisit, but am slightly hesitant because I don't know if I'll be able to embrace the bizarre as well as I did when I was 14), so I'm glad that KC forced me to read this with him!

KC and I decided to read it out loud together, which was an excellent choice. This book started out feeling a little like The Maze Runner, or even the movie Cub
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Michelle
Jul 09, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads, ya
Lately, I've been re-reading books that I had read as a teen, and I'm happy to say that thirty years later, I still love this book. The amazing thing (to me) is that House of Stairs is just as current today as it was back then. It is set in an unspecified, futuristic setting, yet now its seems very contemporary.

House of Stairs, like the Hunger Games series, is a story in which teens are pitted against teens. HoS is much simpler than HG, both in terms of setting and plot, but the four characters
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED- YA fiction- Pavlovian science experiment with kids [s] 4 28 Oct 28, 2014 06:38PM  
house of stairs 5 53 Oct 23, 2013 08:41PM  
What's The Name o...: group of teenagers in a maze [s] 5 138 Sep 01, 2012 11:18PM  
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William Warner Sleator III was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland on February 13, 1945, and moved to St. Louis, MO when he was three. He graduated from University City High School in 1963, from Harvard in 1967 with BAs in music and English.

For more than thirty years, William Sleator thrilled readers with his inventive books. His House of Stairs was named one of the best novels of the twentieth cent
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“But really, that is kind of silly,' Abigail tried to explain. 'I mean, a book is much less personal than a programmed screen that can respond to you according to your needs, and concentrate on what's hard for you, and go fast on what's easy. A book stays the same no matter *who's* reading it. And anyway, I don't see how anyone could read a whole long book, it must be so boring!'

'But...but it wasn't,' Peter said faintly. 'I...almost forgot I was reading it. The...the whole story was going on in my head.'

'I still don't understand,' said Oliver. 'I mean, watching a real-life hologram right before your eyes is better than anything you could *imagine.*”
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