11 April 2015

Review: Harrison Squared

Harrison Squared
Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once upon a NaNoWriMo, I had opted to try and write a Lovecraftian piece for young adults. I think I got to about 1700 words before throwing in the towel.

Daryl Gregory has a book here, Harrison Squared, that decidedly is not young adult but has some strong YA overtones, and ends up not only being a better book than I could have come up with, but really one of the better modern interpretations of Lovecraftian themes I've read in a while.

Harrison Harrison (thus the nickname) had his father die in a freak accident at sea when a large creature capsized the boat his father was on. Now, Harrison and his marine biologist mother have moved to Dunnsmouth on the east coast, and nothing seems quite right with the weird rituals, weirder people, strange myths and stories, and, finally, Harrison's mother also becoming lost at sea. Harrison's new problem is not only trying to find his mother, but trying to navigate a town that doesn't seem to want him there and that he doesn't seem to quite fit into or understand.

All the classic tropes are there, even if they're Lovecraft-adjacent (Dunnsmouth instead of Innsmouth, creatures with strange, difficult-to-pronounce names, offhand jokes about ancient languages), and they're treated with equal reverence and with tongue firmly in cheek. It's not so obvious that a non-Lovecraft fan would catch all the references, but it's also such a good homage that there are more than a few jokes and references interspersed to make you smile. Even better, most Lovecraftian pieces seem to feel as if they must also be as verbose and descriptive as Lovecraft himself was (to the detriment of many of his stories), and this does away with that habit - possibly part of the reason so many people want to call this young adult.

Overall, this was a fun and quick and enjoyable read. As a fan of the related Lovecraft Mythos, this is a welcome addition to the overall subgenre, and there's more than enough here for fantasy or light/weird horror fans to dive into. Overall, it's closer to a 4.5, but I'd give a lot of bonus points just to my overall sheer enjoyment of the ride that I went on with this one. Highly recommended.

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