More wonderful weirdness from the author of Interstellar Pig and The Green Futures of Tycho.
Harry and Barry Krasner of Boston are 16-year-old identical twins; Barry is domineering, boastful, and hates being a twin; Harry (the narrator) is timid, thoughtful, and--despite everything--devoted to Barry. So, when the Krasner family inherits an old house in Illinois from a virtually forgotten great-uncle, Barry immediately comes up with a plan for the twins to spend two weeks checking out this new acquisition. Harry, as usual, passively agrees. And soon the boys are prowling around Uncle Ambrose's creepy manse, viewing his enormous collection of odd animal-skeletons ("Hey! This thing has six legs!"), and finding the key to the strange "playhouse" out in the back yard. Could any of these discoveries be connected to nasty local rumors--involving disappearing animals--about the late Uncle Ambrose? They could indeed--especially when freshly shaved Barry gets locked in the playhouse for a few seconds. . . and emerges with five-o'clock shadow, sure that a whole day has passed!! The explanation? "Time goes faster in there," of course. (There's further, sad proof when Harry's dog Fred, accidentally locked in the playhouse for a few minutes, dies of starvation.) But why does time go faster inside the playhouse? Because the star-rock beneath the playhouse is a "singularity" (a.k.a. black hole); furthermore, on the other side of the rock is another universe; and, from time to time, matter from this other universe (bizarre creatures, mundane garbage) is thrown into our universe--via the plumbing pipes in the playhouse. Wisely, however, Sleator doesn't allow whimsical sci-fi speculation to overwhelm this shrewdly balanced novel. Instead, the focus remains on the Barry/Harry tension--which escalates when Barry threatens to lock himself in the playhouse long enough to age a year (and escape twinship)! But, asserting himself for once, it's Harry who secretly, as Barry sleeps, undertakes the playhouse ordeal: while only a couple of hours pass outside, Harry survives the boredom and panic of a year inside the play-house--watching the approach of a scary creature from that other universe, reading Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, and The Way of All Flesh. ("There was a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that I was doing a significant amount of the rest of life's homework.")
A casual yet crafty interplay of fantasy and sibling psychology: disturbing, funny, and occasionally even touching.