“I think horror is the most important fiction in the world,” he said.
I sit here with tears streaming down my face as my mind and heart digest the last few pages of A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS. What a ride of a book.
I first want to apologize to Kallie, my buddy for this book. When we first started reading this I was in the starting stages of a really big move. A move that would take me from Texas, which funnily enough is the author’s, Shaun Hamill’s native state, to Georgia. I was a wreck of nerves and emotions. Needless to say, although this book captured my attention and my heart from the get-go, I had to stop reading and focus on this huge life transition. Kallie finished the book weeks before I did and we really hadn’t had time to discuss our feelings towards it. Now, three weeks later, “settled” in Georgia, I have FINALLY finished this amazing novel.
Now, on to the star of the show, A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS is a whirlwind of a tale. We encounter flying monsters, fear, love, family dynamics, weird friendships, brokenness, darkness, haunted houses, and some wonderful magic.
For generations, a family has been wrapped up in a world of monsters and a dark city that everyone seems to keep under hush-hush. Neither of them wanting to speak of it, acknowledge it or accept it only makes matters worse. Until Noah, son of Harry, decides to open up his arms and let the monster in. This story is being told from Noah’s perspective as he unravels all layers of the mystery to us.
We start from the very beginning as Harry and Margaret, his parents, fall in love. Let me just say that Harry has to be my favorite character. He’s a lover of horror fiction, haunted houses and anything spooky, making him so relatable. His love for Margaret bleeds through the pages. His uniqueness and the way he wins Margaret over is perfection. They go on to have 3 kids Sydney, Eunice, and Noah and they build an amazing haunted house that just thrives night in and night out. But tragedy befalls them and nothing is ever the same. Also, something weird and dark is lurking through the family, and this is what keeps you glued to the pages until the very end.
The writing and manner in which Noah tells the story are not only capturing but almost whimsical. At times it felt fairytale-like and then other times it was just drenched in darkness. Noah conveys so many emotions and really makes you feel what his family went through. From a collection of suicide notes left by one of his siblings to the disappearance of the other. Could all of their devastation have been avoided if they would’ve just let the monster in like Noah did?
It’s so hard to believe that this intricate piece of work is Hamill’s debut novel. The story is completely fleshed out, flowing seamlessly from beginning to end, even though it has a very complex storyline. Hamill left no stone unturned. So now I urge you to go and experience this story for yourself.
“Skritch-skritch-skritch” will you let the monster in?
A raving 5/5 stars from me!
Noah Turner is a monster. At least, he plays one in the haunted house that his family owns and operates. He sees monsters, too. But he sees the kind that doesn’t unzip their costume and go home at the end of the day. He sees real monsters. Noah doesn’t run and scream though, He chooses to befriend them.
“Pain and death are real, but so are love, and family and forgiveness.”
The cover of this book sold me. It is beautiful. Pictures can’t even capture how beautiful the colors are. The illustration is by Na Kim and the jacket design was done by Kelly Blair. Let’s all just appreciate these two humans for doing such an amazing job because JUST LOOK AT THE BOOK. I looked at the synopsis after the cover drew me in and I just had this gut reaction. I had to read it as soon as I possibly could.
Then, I learned that this is the authors’ FIRST NOVEL. WHAT? A Cosmology of Monsters made Shaun Hamill an auto-buy author for me. It is so beautifully written. The characters are complex and well built. The plot is compelling and feels genuine. The story is dark and disturbing at times. I almost couldn’t believe this is a debut. It feels like a book that will become a classic. It’s a timeless story.
Okay, let’s dig in. The format of this novel didn’t really make sense to me until the very end. But now, I love it. It is a story that starts with the origins of the Turner family and goes into adulthood of the Turner children and it’s all told in a linear order. But, it is broken up by these script-like pieces. Those script pieces were the ones that didn’t make any sense to me until the very end.
There is a whole lot of Lovecraft in this book. The family is a family of readers and they read and mention a ton of Lovecraft and the monsters he created. It was really nice to read the familiar name of a Lovecraft story. It added a really cool and dark element to this family.
The entire first half of this book is a beautiful family drama that is so utterly heartbreaking. The love story of how the parents got together was damn cute and made me want to go watch When Harry Met Sally for the 900th time in my life (it’s my favorite rom-com, get off my back about it). The first two children come into the picture and I really loved the relationship between the father and daughters. I am not sure if its because my father wasn’t around growing up or because I have two young daughters and my husband is an amazing father to them, but that whole father/daughter relationship really tugged at my heartstrings.
The origin story of their haunted house was amazing. All tied up at the start of the family learning to value scaring others is the birth of the new baby brother, our narrator of the story, and a death in the family that changes everything for the family. And during this whole family drama, there are these really smart hints of classic horror elements. A scratch on a window here, or a glimpse of a monster there. The entire time, this family is trying to think of what people are afraid of and, because they are working so hard, all of these little glimpses are easily explained away. That’s my favorite kind of horror and that is what truly captured me about this book. It’s the kind of horror where it could be a giant monster that wants to steal you away and feed on your fear, or it could all be in your head and the head of the character that it is happening to. It doesn’t rely on gore or campy horror, it is straight-up psychological horror and it is really well done.
The second half of the book, where the monsters are real and you really get to see Noah interact with them, came about so abruptly that I had to reread a page. It seems like all of Noah’s interactions with the monster could be a dream until a certain page. And that page made me stop and reevaluate everything I had read until that point. Now, I have read reviews of this book where people either loved the entire book or only loved one half of the book and I can understand that since both halves are so very different. But while they both have beautiful elements of classic horror sprinkled in, one half is just a little more upfront about the monsters and one hides the monsters very well.
The concept of these monsters is really unique and well thought out. I loved the similarities between the monsters and what they crave and what the family has been doing for their entire lives. I can’t really say more about it without going into spoiler territory but, it’s really smart. The monsters aren’t all that physically unique. They are a typical and classic werewolf-looking, spooky monster, cape and all. But their origins and their motives are a really fresh take on monsters. The monsters in this book were not only fantastical monsters, but they were also each member of the family and their own mental health. It’s really intriguing to read about all of these dark and often taboo subjects and see how the family handles them.
“Life makes monsters of everyone, but it’s always possible to come back.”
On the topic of dark and taboo subjects, there is a lot in this book. Is it anything I really think I need to give a trigger warning about? No. I tend to not give trigger warnings because of the number of spoilers given by them. There were definitely dark moments that may be a little hard for some people to read about, but I don’t think that any of them are too over the top. Even at the darkest points of this book, there comes a beautiful element as well.
Overall, this book was heartwarming but it also really messed me up. It was dark, unique and one of my top reads for 2019. I think that if you’re a huge fan of campy B horror, this book is not for you. If you are, however, a fan of real-life horror with some paranormal elements thrown in, you should definitely read this book. This book is why horror exists, it uses big scary monsters to help us understand and deal with real-life horrors.