GORE IN THE STORE

REVIEW INDEX

A COSMOLOGY OF HORRORS ****
Written by Shaun Hamill.
RRP £8.99 448 pp

 

Published June 30th from Titan Books

 

With this lengthy novel, Shaun Hamill makes an impressive debut telling the tale of a family beset by the terrors of giant wolf-like creatures, child abduction, haunted houses, mental illness and vast sentient abandoned cities. It is an energetic mix that Hamill manages to mould together with an assured touch that keeps the reader turning the pages.

 

Spanning from the 1960s to the present day A Cosmology of Horrors is the otherworldly saga of the Turner family. When the young well to do Margaret elopes with horror fanatic Harry it kicks off a series of events that seem to echo the H.P Lovecraft paperbacks that Harry always has at hand. Years later, when facing financial struggles, Harry decides to construct an elaborate haunted house. An attraction that not only contains echoes of the horror fiction Harry loves but also troublingly hints of a supernatural menace that has been lurking around the family since Harry and Margaret’s first meeting. Tragedy strikes and unearthly events soon gather pace when their son Noah, the youngest member of the family after his sisters Sydney and the introverted Eunice, decides to let a giant wolf with glowing orange eyes into his bedroom one night.

 

The books publicity materials draw comparisons to STRANGER THINGS, but aside from one section taking place in the 80s, there is no other similarity. It manages to sidestep the constant pop-culture referencing that helped make that series accessible. The love and reverence for the genre are apparent throughout, however. Each section of the novel is named after a Lovecraft story while interludes concentrating on each family member reminds the reader of the visual stylings of Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES. With the way it combines the themes of the supernatural and mental illness, it is also reminiscent of Shirley Jackson. Still, despite these comparisons, Hamill has his lucid style and sense of storytelling that makes it entirely his work.

 

For a debut novel, it is hugely ambitious. Hamill handles the change in perspectives and periods smartly. The scope of the book, in terms of length and story, is also ambitious and Hamill succeeds here too. Eyebrows may raise at one particular incident, but Hamill’s page-turning storyline leads the reader on regardless of the right and unusual nature of the said incident.

 

Perhaps the books one drawback is the fact that for a horror novel it has a distinct lack of scares. Readers more used to the full-blooded nature of Stephen King or Lovecraft’s concept of an unknowable, extra-terrestrial menace may find themselves disappointed by the novels focus on the all too real issues of the crushing pressures of adulthood, whether they are financial or the lingering feelings of making the wrong decision that decides the course of your life. Luckily Hamill manages to give both the fantastical and emotional elements equal shrift along with his clear, concise prose that keeps the reader guessing as to how the intriguing plot slots together.

 

For a debut, this is hugely impressive and exciting. If Hamill can keep up this level of quality and ambition with his future work, he will definitely be one of the new wave of horror authors to keep an eye on in the future.

 

Iain MacLeod.

 

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