Jake Arnott’s newest novel, The House of Rumour, is a page-turner with exceptional style, depth, thought, camp, counter-history and intrigue. It’s both sci-fi/fantasy pulp and an ambitiously epic work of cosmic proportions: a welcome paradox of a novel that boldly toys with the boundaries between high and low-brow art.
“William Gibson said recently that SF is set to become an essential component of naturalism in fiction,” Arnott emails from somewhere in Hong Kong. “I think it’s good to challenge fixed expectations of genre and what is considered ‘literary’ or not.”
Arnott’s work transcends brief summation, maybe because it also transcends genre. At the core of the novel is a tragic love story in which sci-fi writer Larry Zagorski tries to capture the attention of Mary-Lou, also an SF writer. They both are at the center of a cast of characters trying to impose their own big ideas on a series of events.
Arnott’s book borrows its title from Ovid’s The Metamorphoses “where there is an image of a tower made of bronze from which all can be seen, ‘every voice heard by listening ears,’ ” writes Arnott. Ovid’s house of rumor echoes and hums with the multitudes of the stories in the world; Arnott’s novel highlights the similarities between this ancient image of surveillance and intelligence gathering holds with how "gossip, hearsay and conspiracy is used by intelligence agencies, where disinformation is as important as information," writes Arnott.
There is an unnamed character in The House of Rumour, one who perceives everything that is going on. I asked Arnott how the idea for that character emerged. “Like one of my characters I found myself on the concourse of a train station in Barcelona staring into a model of that station and noting that there was a model of the model within the model, captivated by the possibility of an image containing a smaller copy of itself and so on into infinity,” Arnott says. The House of Rumour is a labyrinth but Arnott wanted to give the reader some type of pathway through it. “That ‘unnamed character’ of perception you refer to is the reader in the end,” he says, “and I wanted to make sure that they weren’t lost in the mirror maze.”
Evan Rodriguez is a writer living in Georgetown, Texas. You can follow him on Twitter.