readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Harrison Squared – Daryl Gregory ****

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I very much enjoyed Daryl Gregory’s ‘We Are All Completely Fine.’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1011648986). Seeing that this was billed as a prequel to that one, of course I picked it up!

In ‘We Are All Completely Fine,’ we meet Harrison Harrison, who’s part of a ‘survivors’ therapy group, and learn that he was once known as the Boy Hero of Dunnsmouth. Here, we go back to Dunnsmouth, and find out exactly what happened, ten years ago.

Now, either there’s going to be another chapter in the story of Harrison and Dunnsmouth (I think there might be), or some details don’t quite match up between the two books. I’m not going to worry about that too much, though. Each book stands on its own merits – but they’re very, very disparate books. The style and feel of each is totally different. (I also don’t really feel that the Harrison we see at the end of this book quite ‘matches up’ with the Harrison we meet a decade later.)

‘Harrison Squared’ is much more clearly an homage to Lovecraft, through-and-through. It’s also much more a YA novel, and not just because the main character is a teenager. It’s also, much, much funnier. That’s not to say that there aren’t some truly some spine-tingling and eerie moments of bleakness – but it’s also a pretty humorous book, especially for fans of Lovecraft.

Harrison Harrison, a regular teen from San Diego, comes with his mother, a scientist, on a research trip to San Diego. The trip is expected to last a couple of months, so he enrolls in school while his mother gets started on oceanography stuff.

The school is a dark and weird place, the students oddly silent, and the classes seem to cover bizarre subjects. (Can I just say how very, very much I love the school in this book? It’s done amazingly well. Especially the pool… that just raises the mundane and universal suckiness of P.E. to a whole new level.) However, Harrison buckles down, gamely, to make the best of it… until, abruptly, his mother goes missing (and is presumed dead).

In her absence, Harrison’s cosmopolitan Aunt Sel swoops into Dunnsmouth, and Harrison learns some disturbing things about his family history – including the accident that killed his father and caused him to lose his leg at the age of three. It was no coincidence that his mother came to Dunnsmouth… and Harrison is impelled to try to find out why his mother disappeared. He might be able to get some information about what’s going on from his strange and unusual classmate, Lydia (think a combination of Lydia from Beetlejuice and Wednesday Addams), who hints that his mother is far from the first person to disappear from this town.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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