Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: August 17 to 18, 2014
Read Count: 2
Recommended for: fans of subtle horror
So very good. If you’re curious about Daryl Gregory but don’t know where to start, consider this novella. It’s short enough to not waste your time and long enough to give you a good sense of his writing.
This story is much more than the sum of its parts, and its genius lies in the subtle writing and unassuming storytelling style, and it’s one of those stories you should go into knowing as little about it as possible, so as to experience it fully it as it unfolds.
Daryl Gregory would like you to imagine a world very much like our own with one significant difference: supernatural monsters are real and they manifest as symptoms of psychological disorders. Only a select few can see these monsters or know of their existence, and these people are usually victims of uniquely disturbing traumas. Dr. Jan Sayer, a psychiatrist and believer, pulls together 5 individuals with similar experiences for a therapy group hoping that by sharing their stories they can alleviate some of their pain and perhaps make peace with their traumas together. It starts as a series of therapy sessions and then unfolds as a series of events that test the merit and mettle of each character, even the good doctor herself.
We’re different from other people, she’d said. We only feel at home when we’re a little bit afraid.
This is easily one of the best character-driven stories I’ve read in awhile, and the writing is as close to perfect as a mix-genre novella can get.
* * *
* * * * some spoilers below * * * *
Some of my favorite moments:
“Thank you for coming in,” the doctor said.
She lifted her eyes from the floor. “I’m Greta.”
Harrison, Barbara, and Stan responded in AA unison: “Hi, Greta.”
“Maybe it’s all of your jobs,” Jan said. “Each of you is on the hero’s journey.”
“Oh, no,” Harrison said. “Leave Joseph Campbell out of it.”
“The Mormon guy?” Stan asked.
“Joseph Campbell,” Martin said. “The monomyth? Star Wars? Damn it, Stan, read a book.”
Harrison noticed that Stan was wearing a pair of split-hook prostheses. “Wait, when did you get those?”
“I’ve got loads of ’em,” Stand said. “Hooks, rubber hands, you name it. I only use them for special occasions. Like pulling triggers.”
Most of the time I like the length of the story and think it’s perfect the way it is, but sometimes I wish it were a full-length novel instead of a novella because there are still so many interesting ideas that could be expanded on. Gregory has plans to expand on Harrison’s story; not sure if he’s doing that for the other characters. I had been hoping he’d expand on Martin’s or Dr. Sayer’s stories too.