Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory
Published: 27 March 2015 by Macmillan -Tor Books/Forge
Acquired: ARC via Netgalley
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Horror
From award winning author Daryl Gregory comes 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 knifewielding 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.
A touch of Gothic writing evokes an eerie and repressive atmosphere over the isolated town. Harrison is a witty narrator with a prosthetic limb who introduces the reader to the elusive, quirky and gaunt townspeople. In the beginning, he shares the awkwardness of being the only half-Mexican teenager in the classroom of a white small town. This early scene adds a sense of realism to the world. I liked how the problematic racist elements of Lovecraft’s original work is subtly subverted by Harrison and his mother’s perspectives in the story.
I admired Harrison’s mother. She is an outspoken and strong willed mother and scientist. The writing still evokes a realistic feeling of horror to her abduction. Although her individual sense of survival avoids trapping her character as a victim. There is a strong build up of mystery and tension during the central plot arc.
As for the supernatural creatures, I have a fondness for ghosts who read. The ghostly professor won me over towards the end:
“I was just thinking, it’s like the books are watching me, wanting me to pick them up, but they’re too polite to ask.”
“Of course,” the professor said. “The best books are always reserved.”
- I am usually charmed by supernatural side characters. Lub (the sea creature) made me laugh the most.
- The Toadmother was a creepy monster with racial prejudices intact. Although I wondered if the portrayed repulsiveness of her excess weight says more about what human society dictates in terms of beauty standards and inhumanity. I am not as familiar with Lovecraft’s work but I picked up on the nods to the supernatural.
Excerpt from Chapter 1 can be found here.