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A Cosmology of Monsters


A Cosmology of Monsters

A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS, Shaun Hamill’s debut novel, deftly and effectively straddles a number of genres. It is certainly a work of horror. Hamill pays tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury in separate epigraphs at the beginning of the book, and the influence of each of them is manifested throughout this grim and haunting coming-of-age tale. There are elements of other genres, including mystery, thriller and even romance, that ultimately make it a book with potentially much broader appeal than would appear at first blush from its title.

The novel centers on the Turner family, who are both cursed and blessed (though mostly the former). The story is narrated by Noah, the youngest son, who does not make an appearance until nearly a third of the way through the book. That said, the history of the family is anything but a contemporary boring begat. We are first introduced to Harry and Margaret Turner, who meet, wed and have two daughters, Sydney and Eunice. At a certain point, Harry begins to wander off the deep end, which is partially manifested by his building and managing a Halloween haunted house before such things became a fixture in popular culture.

"[Hamill] will keep you up all night reading and have you wondering, pondering and checking your windows for weeks, if not longer."

Harry and Margaret eventually and inconveniently conceive Noah, who seems weird from the start, but that is only because he sees the world from a view that others do not possess. That vision includes a monster that appears outside his bedroom window each night and ultimately persuades him to let it in. These nocturnal visits continue far beyond childhood and evolve into different forms --- some expected, others not so much.

There are also a couple of quiet and matter-of-fact shockers attached to those visitations, one of which is a series of disappearances over a number of years that include children as well as Noah’s mother and sisters. Noah suspects his monster friend of being behind them, but the truth is much more complicated than that. Things proceed to a twisted ending that is more Grimm than Disney and leaves the reader haunted long after the last page is turned.

Hamill wears some of his influences on his sleeve. There are homages to Lovecraft, of course, but also to Stephen King. With regard to the latter, he gets the subtle message of King’s early work --- that the true horror in the story isn’t the monster but rather the heartbreak and tragedy found in the everyday visible world that strike unpredictably and without warning. In addition, there are nods to Steven Spielberg, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, as well as passages that bring to mind the artwork of Arthur Rackham.

The bedrock of A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS, though, is all Hamill, who will keep you up all night reading and have you wondering, pondering and checking your windows for weeks, if not longer.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 27, 2019

A Cosmology of Monsters
by Shaun Hamill

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 052556392X
  • ISBN-13: 9780525563921