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January 3, 2013 6:46 PM   Subscribe

What was this genre novel about a maze full of gruesome tableaux vivants?

Thanks to metafilter's enthusiastic recommendation, I saw Sleep No More last night (and adored it). In fact, it reminded me of a novel I read in the mid-to-late nineties that I would love to find again.

It was shelved in the genre section of my local library. It was probably horror or fantasy but may have even (somehow) been science fiction. In it, I think there was some sort of charismatic patron of the arts (?) who built an enormous maze or structure filled with tableaux vivants, which became increasingly gruesome as one walked from room to room. I suspect this structure had been abandoned. I think this structure hinted at some deeper science or philosophy but I don't remember the details. The book scared the living crap out of me when I read it as a teenager.

That's pretty much all I remember. Any suggestions gladly welcome!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry to answer a vague memory with another vague memory, but as a kid I read one of the Oz books that reminds me a lot of your description. Is that a possibility or was it definitely more recent?
posted by threeants at 6:48 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: I'm fairly certain it was an adult SF/F or horror novel, and I think it was in a newish edition in the 90s, but that's all I remember about it. I'll check the Oz books just in case, though!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 PM on January 3, 2013

Real long shot, but was it Iain M. Banks' Excession?
posted by griphus at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

This also reminds me of Excession... GSV Sleeper Service (eccentric) builds them out of stored bodies, recreating massive battle scenes from history. Nothing progressively more gruesome... just more ornate.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2013

Also a long shot, but maybe The Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg? No patron of the arts as far as I remember, but definitely a gruesome maze.
posted by zeri at 7:12 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Looked up both and neither seems quite right--though the Culture novel was close! The tableaux were definitely horrific (or might have seemed initially innocuous and were later revealed to be horrific, I think?).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:18 PM on January 3, 2013

This may have been a Stephen Millhauser novel called From the Realm of Morpheus or possibly The Magus by John Fowles?
posted by jessamyn at 7:25 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Probably too new, but there was a scene in the (I think) third Game of Thrones book like that.
posted by jferg at 8:03 PM on January 3, 2013

If it's not tableaux vivants, but doors into other worlds, maybe you're thinking of The Door Into Fire?
posted by MsMolly at 8:23 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Dang, none of these seem quite right. I read the Magus years later and remember thinking it was similar (but less scary). Definitely wasn't Game of Thrones or The Door into Fire. The Millhauser novel doesn't seem quite right, either, though I'm having trouble finding much detail about it online so I'm not 100% sure.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:41 PM on January 3, 2013

Sounds a lot like the Millhauser story "A Precursor of the Cinema." I guess that doesn't help you identify your novel, but I recommend the story.
posted by deathpanels at 11:54 PM on January 3, 2013

Also not tableaux vivants, but a large wall painting in a swanky house's mysterious cellar comes alive in Clive Barker's Coldheart Canyon. Publication date is 2001, though, so it's probably not the book you are thinking of.
posted by seabound_coast at 5:33 AM on January 4, 2013

This reminds me of Neuromancer - the part where Molly is exploring the maze of Villa Straylight and comes across gruesome holograms (monsters, torture, cannibalism). It was published in 1984 so the dates fit? Brilliant book - one of my all time favourites!
posted by prune at 8:31 AM on January 4, 2013

The Torture Garden? It's a long shot, as this is an older book, but I do remember RE|Search republishing it sometime in the '90s.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2013

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