An accomplished, macabre horror saga and a promising debut from an imaginative new author.

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A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS

A Texas family that runs a haunted house is haunted by monsters for decades.

This ambitious, grotesque debut novel is a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, so it may not be the easiest horror novel to parse or explain. That said, this is a very scary coming-of-age tale that lives in the same space as Stranger Things, Stand By Me, and Stephen King’s It (1986). The story is told by Noah Turner, who matter-of-factly recounts the dark and terrible fortunes of his family. He opens with the sweet romance between his parents, Harry and Margaret, who marry and start a comic book store and a haunted house called The Wandering Dark in the small town of Vandergriff, Texas. But terrible things keep happening, including Harry’s untimely death, Margaret’s bottomless grief, the sudden disappearance of Noah’s oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s crippling mental illness, not to mention the increasingly frequent disappearances of children from Vandergriff. These events would be frightening by themselves, but Hamill adds another layer by introducing a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night and declares it's his friend while giving him a few magical powers to boot. But things like giant monsters always turn out to be something...else, and in Noah’s adolescence, this one does, too. The way Hamill weaves his way between the phantasmagorical elements and Noah’s everyday dramas is nimble in a way reminiscent of King, who practically invented this narrative style. Creepy interstitial entries dubbed “The Turner Sequences” flesh out the fates of Noah’s family. Eventually, an older Noah meets a group of people calling themselves The Fellowship who can also see these monsters, and Noah’s instinct is to run as far away as possible. But darkness unleashed can never really be escaped, and readers are bound to find themselves shuddering at the novel's lurid denouement.

An accomplished, macabre horror saga and a promising debut from an imaginative new author.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4767-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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