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Review: A Cosmology of Monsters

3/5 stars

A Cosmology of Monsters, by Shaun Hamill (2019)

TW: mental illness, suicide, cancer, sexual assault


"Noah Turner sees monsters. His father saw them—and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates. His practical mother has caught glimpses of terrors but refuses to believe—too focused on keeping the family from falling apart. His eldest sister, the dramatic and vulnerable Sydney, won’t admit to seeing anything but the beckoning glow of the spotlight . . . until it swallows her up. Noah Turner sees monsters. But, unlike his family, Noah chooses to let them in."


This was a fun October read - a little spooky stuff for Halloween. My 3-star rating is an average, since I loved the beginning and loved some of the directions the story took, and really disliked others. So, it's hard to say how I really felt about this book, since it kind of all depends on what page we're talking about.


The book is narrated by Noah Turner, the youngest in a family, with two older sisters, Sydney & Eunice, and parents Margaret and Harry. The story begins before Noah is born (though he remains an omniscient observer) - when his parents meet, Harry introduces Margaret to his passion with horror comics, books, movies, etc. Soon enough they have a family, but Harry begins to act strange and erratic, even violent at times, and becomes completely obsessed with the idea of building an immersive haunted house in their back yard... which slowly overtakes the garage and the house, and eventually consumes Harry himself.


The book is a family tragedy that contends with personal trauma and real-life monsters - which "some ignore, some get intimate (yes, in that way) with, some turn to suicide, some are diagnosed with mental disorders, some disappear, some get weirdly cult-ish about it."


The narration goes back and forth in time, broken up by chapters that describe dreams (or dream-like reality) of a place that haunts the family, called simply "The City." There are a lot of truly fascinating concepts and imagery, but the plot and character development didn't really ever coalesce into the wonderful thing it could have been. Instead, it devolved into weird sex stuff that was very clearly written by a white man, and a confusing ending that left all of the characters dissatisfied, continuing on only as diminished versions of their former selves.


All in all, a weird mixture of "I LOVE this!" and "Oh no, you ruined it, Shaun!" Since this is his debut novel, I'm hopeful that his next efforts will be a bit more even.

 

UP NEXT: The Book Eaters, by Sunyi Dean


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