Published by Tor Books on 24th March 2015
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller
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From award winning author Daryl Gregory, a thrilling and colorful Lovecraftian adventure of a teenage boy searching for his mother, and the macabre creatures he encounters.Harrison Harrison--H2 to his mom--is a lonely teenager who's been terrified of the water ever since he was a toddler in California, when a huge sea creature capsized their boat, and his father vanished. One of the "sensitives" who are attuned to the supernatural world, Harrison and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place for a boy like him: Dunnsmouth, a Lovecraftian town perched on rocks above the Atlantic, where strange things go on by night, monsters lurk under the waves, and creepy teachers run the local high school. On Harrison's first day at school, his mother, a marine biologist, disappears at sea. Harrison must attempt to solve the mystery of her accident, which puts him in conflict with a strange church, a knife-wielding killer, and the Deep Ones, fish-human hybrids that live in the bay. It will take all his resources--and an unusual host of allies--to defeat the danger and find his mother.
Last year, hands down, my favourite read was Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine. It ticked every box I have when it comes to enjoying a book – horror or otherwise. So when word trickled down that Gregory had written a prequel featuring one of the main characters from that novel, I could not have been more excited.
All of which is to say, I doubt I was ever going to dislike Harrison Squared. As long as it retained a semblance of the fantastic concepts on display in the original and stayed true to the character of Harrison, I was going to be a happy reader.
And so I am. Gregory, however, seems to have decided very early on that since Harrison Squared is about a young character, then it may as well be a completely different genre from the horror-thriller he produced with We Are All Completely Fine. So much like your favourite band putting out an album that completely defies what has come before it, Gregory here constructs a YA dark fantasy. Yet the quality of writing is the same, and the mystery behind what is happening at Dunnsmouth (and who takes his mother) is captivating enough to keep the pace brisk.
Yet the real star here is the character of Harrison. He’s just the right amount of 16 year old – yet one with a determined head on his shoulders, a righteous path before him, and a healthy streak of snark that makes him fun to read. Not that Gregory slouches in the supporting character department. Aunt Selena is a colourful force who has Harrison’s back, and the other “people” he slowly comes to recruit to his cause are all equally memorable. Perhaps the same can’t be said for all of the antagonists – other than the frightening Scrimshander – but their plot is sufficiently grand to make for an exciting finale nonetheless.
I’m sure many will be disappointed that the YA tropes of no swearing and relatively little violence are in play, but the overall narrative is strong enough to make these “oversights” forgivable. At least in my book.
The long and short of it is that Harrison Squared will appeal to most anyone who can make the necessary adjustment to their intensity setting after reading We Are All Completely Fine. Go in knowing you’re not up for the same dark, horrific ride, but rather one that is a dark fantasy in nature, and you should have a good time
Here’s to more from the universe Gregory has created – be it YA dark fantasy or straight out horror. I’ll take whatever I can get…
4 Overly Large Squids for Harrison Squared.
The preceding was based on an eARC made available by Tor books through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.