The premise of the book is that everyone who's ever died (up to the time of its publication) has gone to Styx, the river that circles the underworld. The book begins with the ferryman Charon being startled & annoyed by the arrival of a houseboat on the Styx. At first afraid that the boat will put him out of business, he later finds out that he is actually to be appointed its janitor. What follows are 11 more stories which are set on the houseboat. There's no central theme. The purpose appears to be as a literary thought experiment to see what would happen if various famous dead people were put in the same room with each other. Each chapter is a short story featuring various souls from history & mythology. In the 12th chapter the houseboat disappears, leading into a sequel, Pursuit of the House-Boat. The book sold for $1.25 in 1895.