By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Science Fiction Short Story Review: “Old Rambling House” by Frank Herbert

Ted and Martha Graham are pretty sure they’re about to land a deal that’s too good to be true. A foreign-sounding couple wants to swap their old rambling house out in the boonies for their trailer. With the baby on the way, the Grahams are looking for something with more room. Also, Ted’s career as a tax accountant hasn’t been going as well as planned. Seems there aren’t as many wealthy people in the area as he first thought.

The foreign-sounding couple appears. The man introduces himself as Clint Rush and his wife as Raimee. After giving the trailer a cursory going-over, Rush offers to drive the Grahams to the house since the place is hard to find at night. And he and Raimee have other business in town later on so they’ll leave Ted and Martha to explore the house and pick them later.

The house is off a country road, high in the hills. The Rushes leave them alone to discuss things. It’s everything Martha dreamed of, but Ted senses, not for the first time, that something is very wrong. In his estimation, the house is worth $100,000 while their trailer is worth barely $7000.

“But they’re foreigners,” Martha says. How would they know that they’re getting into?

It’s already too late.

This is cute and funny. The ending was a little weak, but not unforgivably so. There is a clue in the first sentence that things aren’t going to go as planned, and Ted knows that some thing’s not right, but never acts on his gut feeling. Instead, he—like his wife—goes with greed and the trap is sprung.

Author Frank Herbert is best remembered for his Dune books, but he was also a journalist. During the Second World War, he served with the Seebees as a photographer.

Title: “Old Rambling House” first published in Galaxy Science Fiction April 1958
Author: Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
Source: ISFDB




Last review: "The Far Lands" by John Buchan

Last sci fi review: "Tight Squeeze" by Dean C. Ing


©2015 Denise Longrie


An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has been removed and is no longer visible there. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.

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DWDavisRSL wrote on November 8, 2015, 9:04 AM

I am a big fan of Frank Herbert's Dune books and knew he'd written short stories, among his other accomplishments. I believe I read this story many years ago as the plot is eerily familiar. I will have to look it up and give it another read.

msiduri wrote on November 8, 2015, 9:14 AM

I loved the first couple of Dune books. They just seemed to lose steam after a while. The litany against fear was good. Plus, I was always reading Greek mythology, so the "house of names of things—Leto, etc. always struck chords.

Rufuszen wrote on November 8, 2015, 11:39 AM

I was never able to get into his writing and the film didn't do a great deal to warm me to it

msiduri wrote on November 8, 2015, 1:26 PM

The first movie from the 80s was ugly to look at, IMHO, and just sucked the life out of the story.

Rufuszen wrote on November 8, 2015, 3:12 PM

Yes, if it hadn't been for Patrick Stewart I'd have never seen it!

MegL wrote on November 8, 2015, 4:42 PM

The Dune books were very good, although I was not too fond of the ending.

DWDavisRSL wrote on November 8, 2015, 4:44 PM

I agree the original three books were by far the best.

msiduri wrote on November 8, 2015, 5:47 PM

MegL They have kept going and going and going.... Herbert's son, I believe has kept writing them. I stopped reading them after about the third or fourth.

MegL wrote on November 9, 2015, 1:14 AM

Yes, I like trilogies and even longer series but when they start getting to volume 13 or 14 I think, "Enough"!

msiduri wrote on November 9, 2015, 6:57 AM

One exception is Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books. I love the stuff. Don't ask me why. Some books are better than others, of course.

CalmGemini wrote on November 11, 2015, 6:09 AM

I have not read this story yet.Will be looking up reading it soon.

msiduri wrote on November 11, 2015, 8:09 AM

It's a cautionary tale. They really should have known better, but— If you read it, left use know what you think.