The story opens with Penn and Chandelle, an elderly couple, looking to rent a house for a few months during the summer. They end up at a strange house that appears to anticipate their needs and wants. The house is furnished the way they like, the closets are filled with clothes and shoes that fit them perfectly and even the refrigerator is filled with food they like. They also discover a computer and a television setup with seemingly limitless access to the internet and an infinite number of channels. Most intriguing about the house are the front and back doors, which can be programmed to open to a variety of different locations and times.
They soon invite their teenage grandchildren, Llynn and Lloyd, to join them at the house to help them figure it all out. They discover hidden chambers, languages and devices that can do everything from enhancing a person’s physical abilities to healing wounds. They are eventually joined by a brother and sister they aid in a dangerous situation. All occupants of the house feel an intense desire to explore it’s many secrets and find out the purpose of the house.
Piers Anthony has created an interesting concept that snags the reader’s attention almost immediately. However, the book is flawed. The dialogue in many cases isn’t realistic. While it’s interesting to follow along with the logic of the characters as they think out loud, it’s also simplistic. There also seems to be an unusual amount of sexual tension in the book, much of it incestuous.
Despite its flaws, Realty Check is a fun book. I enjoyed reading about the different uses the characters found for the devices found in the house and found the final explanation for the purpose of the house to be intriguing, if somewhat unsatisfying. I thought the theory conjectured by the characters right before they discovered the truth to be more satisfying and sinister: that the purpose of the house was to lure in humans of various ages so that aliens could run a captive breeding experiment with them (and it would have explained all the sexual tension throughout the book). The actual explanation, about the occupants of the house being host bodies and tour guides for alien minds was neat and cute and ultimately… meh.
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