NameThatBook Filter
May 8, 2006 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Name That Book! I'm trying to track down a book I read probably 20 or 25 years ago, when I would have been in my early teens. It was vaguely science fiction-ish, featured teenagers as the main characters and *may* have been Canadian. Plot synopsis inside...

The story was like this: a young male child, who is an orphan, is made part of a "official" study. He is put inside a very large building (they never find the edges of the place) which seems to consist entirely of stairs and landings. After some exploring, he discovers 3 or 4 other kids (two girls, one fat and unplesant, one pretty and unplesant and one or two boys) and a machine that dispenses food pellets. Since this is the only food source, they all stay clustered around it. The machine only produces pellets when certain actions are performed, which are initially innoccuos enough (sticking out your tongue at it) but gradually become more and more dark, and encourage the kids to act viciously towards each other. The interactions with the machine also become more complicated as well, with flashing lights and dancing becoming normal. Eventually, the original kid and one of the boys retreat away from the machine, slowly starving and fending off attacks from the remaining kids. At this point, the experiment ends and it is revealed that this was all to try and build a team that would follow each other's lead unquestioningly. The two hold outs are told that they are failures, but when the other kids are walking away, they get to a street light where, seeing the flashing light, they unquestioningly start to dance...

Obviously, I remember a fair amount about the story, but I cannot for the life of me recall what it might be called, or more to the point, where I might get my eyes on another copy! Help?
posted by schwap23 to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
The House of Stairs, Wiliam Sleator.
posted by xil at 4:13 PM on May 8, 2006

Response by poster: Damn that was quick! Thanks a bunch!
posted by schwap23 at 4:27 PM on May 8, 2006

schwap23, I had the same vague memory and searched for that book a few years ago (before I learned about AskMe ...). Made a huge impression on me.
posted by theredpen at 4:55 PM on May 8, 2006

yeah me too. Somehow when I read the first part of the post, before seeing the synopsis, I started to think it was going to be that book, which I hadn't thought about in 20 years to so.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:00 PM on May 8, 2006

Same as drjimmy11; don't know why.
posted by moira at 5:21 PM on May 8, 2006

I could swear this was in an AskMe post a couple of years ago -- because I bought the book, having not read it as a kid, because I saw it mentioned in a post just like this one. :)
posted by litlnemo at 5:25 PM on May 8, 2006

This is so weird. Every time I see a "Name that book" thread on AskMe, I ALWAYS think of this one. Can't explain it, but it's interesting that other people have the same reaction. Not that I loved the book so much, it just ... sticks. A few Sleator books are like that. ("Singularity" is another one.)
posted by quarked at 6:13 PM on May 8, 2006

This is probably the most popular name this book evar.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2006

Seems strange, the amount of people who know this book, I had never heard of the author before, but I too, read this book about 20 years ago and remember much about it. I read it in a "secret" clearing in the woods nearby where I lived.
posted by edgeways at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2006

Wow, quarked, I had exactly the same response. I read the bit before the [more inside] and immediately thought "I bet it's 'House of Stairs'".
posted by solid-one-love at 8:16 PM on May 8, 2006

Yeah, someone needs to generate an autoscript that replies to anyone who posts a "name this sci-fi book" question with a William Sleator bibliography.

Anyone for a quick game of Interstellar Pig?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:54 PM on May 8, 2006

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