Cover Image: A Cosmology of Monsters

A Cosmology of Monsters

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My initial rating for this book was supposed to be 2/5 stars but upon contemplation and writing this review, I think it was really that bad.
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I'm a big fan of blended horror, where the horror is both literal and metaphorical. In this way, Hamill's A Cosmology of Monsters triumphs. Ultimately, though it had a great concept and interesting characters, it was too slow to be entirely engaging for me and ended up falling a bit flat. I do know others (patrons and coworkers alike) who would definitely be willing to give it a go, however, and would be willing to bet it would go over better for them.
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One of the wildest rides you'll ever find between the cover of a book. This story is insane. I don't even know how someone can think of something like this. HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend. I can't wait for more Shaun Hamill. He is a genius and I know there is more greatness to come.
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A huge favorite. From the theme in the book, to the author`s prose. I will buy his next novel for sure. An impressive debut novel.
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What a strange, spooky, and constantly surprising tale - I loved it. The scope was both large, spanning decades, and also small and intimate, focusing on this one family. I feel like I ate a full meal instead of the snack other books following a single episode or season in a character's life offer. There were times I wondered how it could possibly come together, but it did and it was just right. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I was interested in A Cosmology of Monsters in part because it was on this year's Tournament of Books longlist, which is always full of great reads. Unfortunately, this one definitely was not for me. (I know the exact point at which it irrevocably lost me, but it would be a major spoiler to spell it out.) Anyway, A Cosmology of Monsters started off strong, with Noah narrating the story of how his parents met and fell in love. His family creates and runs a haunted house, but then people start disappearing and Noah begins to figure out why. I think this book didn't work for me in part because Noah isn't that well developed. His sisters were interesting (though they didn't get enough on-page time for my taste), but Noah really just narrates what's happening to other people. He has some fantastical experiences, but I felt like his voice was at a constant remove and I didn't understand his motivation or what made him tick. I am not sure if this is supposed to be scary (it's labeled horror), but I didn't think it was; mostly I grew annoyed while reading it. I do think that lots of people will love this one, but I found myself very happy to reach the end,
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This was a very cool read! I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense, the horror, and the very creepy monsters that crop up. A lot. The writing style was also very good and satisfying, which doesn't always happen with horror stories. Like others, the Lovecraftian angle was easier to digest in Hamill's work than in Lovecraft's himself. I look forward to recommending this book to horror fans!
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A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill is a dark family drama, tinged with horror that creeps beneath your skin and stays a while. The writing itself is beautiful; it’s hard to believe this is Hamill’s debut, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The story is complex, with layers of meaning and different time periods, all held together by family bonds and mysterious monsters - some real, some pretend - and ultimately, it breaks your heart while making you love the characters deeply.
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I don't know what exactly I expected from this book, but it certainly wasn't a Lovecraftian love(?) story. What a weird little book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to read more by Hamill.
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This just wasn't for me. I'm a crime scene, serial killer, wife disappeared and them came back novel reader. This had far too many elements of fantasy and unreality that I just couldn't entertain let alone digest. For another reader I am sure this would be magical.  Thank you to Pantheon Books for letting me walk in the fantasy genre for a moment. I appreciate my time there but need to get back to where I belong.
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In the acknowledgements of this book, Shaun Hamill calls it a "literary genre hybrid." That's a really good description, because this is a very odd novel. It's got elements of cosmic horror, sure, but it's not really scary in that way, necessarily. It reads more like a literary novel, especially in the beginning, and the scary bits are all to do with the banal realities of everyday life. I almost feel like there's a very large metaphor being teased out here, one that I'm struggling to properly articulate but that has something to do with everyday tragedies as horrifying monsters. It's about a haunted family, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call it Gothic, it definitely has elements of Gothic family sagas.

A Cosmology of Monsters is narrated by Noah, the youngest member of the Turner family. He begins with his parents' meeting one another in 1968, and writes on until sometime in the late 2000s, detailing the terribly sad dissolution of his family as a result of some sort of monster that seems to be on their trail. This monster is easily the least developed part of the book, and its origin is never truly explained; it seems Hamill isn't altogether concerned with that, but rather with the effect of this monster on the Turner family. The monsters feed on pain, and the Turners encounter a lot of it.

This didn't feel like horror to me, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, it felt deeply, deeply sad. It gave rise to a feeling of existential despair, albeit one being buffeted by hope. It's really the story of a single family, their trials and tribulations, with a really weird fantastical element thrown in. There's a lot of allusions to horror writers, particularly Lovecraft, and the "City" that repeatedly features in the narrative definitely feels like something Lovecraft would have created.

Technically speaking, the book is extremely readable and engaging. It always baffles me how there are just some books that manage to suck you right in and make you feel like a comfortable guest. I picked this book up and immediately, something about the writing style felt familiar and easy, and I grew attached to the characters in all their flaws (especially Margaret and Sydney; I adore "unlikable" women).

This is more of a 4.5 for me, but I would have liked a bit more explication regarding the origin of the monsters and the City; yes, we get a resolution, but it felt a little too vague for me. I also think that, although the book started out very strong when it was describing the early days of the Turner family, it started to stagnate just a tiny bit when it transitioned to simply being about Noah and his daily encounters. It was never boring or slow, but the quality of the second half, in my opinion, did not quite measure up to the quality of the first. I also think the two halves suffer from a kind of cognitive dissonance - the fantasy elements in the first half are light, barely there, while the second half turns into full-on monster movie, which was a little jarring.

This book isn't just for readers of fantasy and horror; I would highly recommend this if you're a literary fiction reader. This is a wonderful book with an achingly sad story at its core, filled with vibrant, flawed characters struggling to find their place in the world
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Such a unique read!!

Shaun is officially my new favorite author. He knows how to tell a chilling story and create perfectly-crafted characters. 

This one was hard to put down. I think it will receive a lot of high praise from many readers!
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Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this advanced copy!

Shaun Hamill's A Cosmology of Monsters is one of the most original horror stories I've ever read. So much so, in fact, that I hesitate to call it horror. Certainly, he knows the genre; his tale invokes many of the greats and many wonderful tropes - from the cloak of Little Red Riding Hood as she runs from the wolf to Danielewski's haunted house. Hamill especially channels Lovecraft - but in a way that will please those who are already fans without alienating those who are not (he might even get you to pick up a title from the library). 

The backstory of the family seems unusually long in the opening chapters (though Hamill makes it pay off in the end) and each character is convincing and real. (As the oldest of three siblings I recognized the role each child played!). The Batman-cowl-bedecked narrator is adorable when he enters the story, and the reader never loses admiration for him even when his actions are questionable. Most surprising of all was how I ended up feeling about the monster - but I'll leave you to make up your own mind about the creature that goes "scritch" in the night so that I don't ruin your reading enjoyment. Be prepared for a tale that is as melancholy at times as it is frightening - and where the real monsters are often part of the fabric of our everyday lives rather than being supernatural.
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A Cosmology of Monsters is definitely a book that I don't think will be for everyone.  But, if you are into trying new things, I would steer you toward this one.   It was unlike anything I have read in a while. Ultimately, I did enjoy it.  I wasn't a big fan of the ending, but I can see why the author chose to end it that way. I liked Noah's character.  Watching him grow up and seeing how his relationship with his monster was a unique experience.   Initially, I thought this was a YA book, but it's not.  Things go in a particular direction that is very much adult.  So fair warning.

I really feel like this is a book that you are better off going into knowing as little as possible.  Knowing more than the synopsis above would really ruin the experience.  I definitely had no idea what the twist or reveal would be and that only enhanced my reading experience.  I was sucked in and captivated from start to finish.  It's little creepy, but not scary.  I definitely recommend this debut novel.  I think this author has gotten off to a good start and I can't wait to see what comes next.
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A cursed family is plagued by unseen and unspoken horrors in outstanding debut

The advance smoke signals for Shaun Hamill’s debut A Cosmology of Monsters were smoking hot, and I am delighted to report that on this occasion the hype was entirely justified. It is a very tricky book to review, so to avoid spoilers I will remain relatively vague on the plot. Upon reading, I knew little more about it than its reputation and had no idea of the direction the story was heading into and was seriously wrong-footed on more on one occasion by this beguiling tale of invisible friends, madness and monsters. This was an incredibly original and fresh read, which also has an authentic sense of nostalgia for horror and b-movies from yesteryear. These days, everything seems to be ‘Lovecraftian’ in one way or another, A Cosmology of Monsters is slightly different, in that it is more of a love letter to HP Lovecraft and other weird fiction authors from that period, such as Ray Bradbury, as much as his world of cosmic horror. In its own quirky manner, it is seeped in Lovecraft, just not in the conventional way and that is one of its major strengths.

Have I already said that this was a weird book? Part of its odd charm lies in the wonderful first-person narrator, a kid called Noah, but wait for it, his narration begins many years before his birth. He is even aware of the fact that his mother considered aborting him. The opening sentences were beauties and give you a feel for what lies ahead:

“I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old. I still keep them all in my bottom desk drawer, held together with a black binder clip. They were among the only things I was allowed to bring with me, and I’ve read through them often the last few months, searching for comfort, wisdom, or even just a hint that I’ve made the right choices for all of us”.

Noah narrates a story that is spread across many decades from years before his birth to well into his twenties. Although it certainly covers the themes of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, it is confidently intertwined with a story of a boy (Noah) struggling to deal with life within his traumatised and highly dysfunctional family, which may suffer from mental illness or have a strange supernatural presence haunting the family. 

All of this begins when Noah’s mother and father meet in the early stages of the novel. The meeting of Margaret and Harry Turner is beautifully staged, she works in a bookshop which Harry frequently visits, they start dating and get married against her parent’s wishes. This is the late 1960s and Harry is a Lovecraft fanatic who gives Margaret “The Tomb” to read and the book touches her in a special way, he also has a massive and exceptionally valuable collection of originals. Who gives a girl a Lovecraft novel to a girl on a first date and seriously expects a second?!? They have two daughters close together, Sydney and Eunice, and much later, Noah comes along. At various times Eunice reads her youngster brother “The Tomb” as a bedtime story; the Turners were not exactly a normal family.

Strange things happen around the Turners and it is beautifully portrayed both through the eyes of the child Noah and wherever he is ultimately narrating the story from. Much of this revolves around a Halloween business the family run, which is very popular and known as ‘The Wandering Dark’ and the whole family get involved playing ghosts, creating haunted attractions, behind the scene stuff like makeup and ultimately scaring kids for cash and. The Wandering Dark goes on for many years, but is it hiding something more sinister? There are monsters in this book and it is how Noah approaches them which is one of the cleverest aspects of the story. Both Noah’s sisters are exceptionally troubled, and the family dynamics are so well pitched, the balance between drama and horror is totally convincing as it meanders into dark fairy-tale and mystery, taking in both mental illness and depression. 

I loved this style of narrative, portrayed akin to a coming of age memoir, except for the fact that monsters are real and that for some inexplicable reason are only attracted to certain people. Some may find the pace to be a tad slow, however, this story of a cursed family was truly bittersweet and is surrounded in such tragedy and loss I thought the slow pace suited the story perfectly. The disappearance and death of loved ones dominates the story, giving it a very melancholic feeling of loss that is as believable as it is fantastical.  

It has been said on many occasions that the true horror in the story isn’t the monster but rather the heartbreak and tragedy found in the everyday visible world. This is certainly the case with Shaun Hamill’s superb A Cosmology of Monsters, a bolt from the blocks to rival Andrew Cull’s equally brilliant Remains for the most impressive debut of 2019.

A Cosmology of Monsters was released recently in the USA and picks up a UK release in 2020.
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One of the best horror novels I've read in years. Following through the lives of several members of the Turner family and their ancestors, before finally settling on Noah Turner, our first-person narrator, we go on a journey that spans lifetimes and a mystery that has befuddled generations. The family business is a haunted house, open for the Halloween season, called the Wandering Dark, which children Noah, Eunice, and Sydney have grown up with. Even though the livelihood of the Turners is entrenched in darkness, each family member struggles with their own issues, as seen by the memorable first line of the novel: "I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old."

What a way to begin. Hamill does a great job of balancing the fantastical with the ordinary and blending the two. The children grew up with a haunted house, already an odd profession for a family to have, and the Wandering Dark plays a perfect setting for the family as they grow and begin to realize that they really are haunted. I won't spoil anything, but the way Noah, perpetually isolated, reacts to being haunted is wonderful and original. There is an unusual bond between Noah and his demons, one that I'm sure will probably disturb some readers but was so new that it just engrossed me further. Do beware of literally all the content warnings, though, guys. This book deals with a lot of heavy material, and even though it was handled great and never felt depressing, you might want to skip it if you have any common triggers.

Something that stuck out to me the most was the vacillation between Noah's first person point of view and the omnipresent tone the novel has for all other sections. Having Noah as our narrator gave us an insight into his mind, especially as the novel spans decades of his life. We get to see him grow up, fall in love, get married, go through all the life events. It feels, at the end of the novel, that Noah is a friend we know very well. The other part of the narrative leads us through the lives of Noah's family members, which is easily one of the highlights of the novel. Each character is uniquely developed and deals with their own brand of horror.

Overall, most everything about this novel was so original. The horror, the monsters, the family dynamics, the unusual writing style, everything worked. A stunning debut into a genre that struggles to stay unique. I look forward to everything else this author puts out. The only reason this didn't get a full five stars from me is that I did see the ending coming from a mile away, and even though it was a good ending, in a book that was so wholly fresh and twisty, it felt like a disappointment to know where we were going to end up. 

Much thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a digital ARC of this book.
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I confess. I am an end-reader. If I get halfway or more through a story and am a) getting bored with it, or b) *have* to know what happens to a certain character, etc. I will flip to the end and read the last chapter. The mark of an exceptional book is if, after reading the end, if I go back and finish the book. 

Cosmology of Monsters is an *exceptional* book.

Initially, I read the story through the lens of mental illness, considering the action happening to the family as part of a struggle with serious illness and not flesh & blood “monsters.” As I progressed and the story “got real” I was so taken with the complex relationships built between Noah and his family, friends, and the monster that the mental illness aspect drifted to the background. This book is pure imagination. It takes the horror of Lovecraft and the psychological terror of King and blends them into this gorgeous, creepy, frightening slurry of human (and non-human) emotion. All the elements of a good story are here - primarily the hero with a quest - and Shaun Hamill steps confidently into the circle of horror masters. Highly recommended.
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Shaun Hamill really puts the reader in the scene with awesome descriptions that aren't overbearing. The horror is surreal but without being horrifying. This could easily be a good read for someone new to the horror genre. I loved the characters as they were really developed and felt real as if you had known them for a while. If del Toro's "The Shape of Water" was less romance and aquatics and more horror friendship is how I feel about this. It also reminded me of the ambiance and tone of Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands.
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ARC received from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of my opinions are my own, and are in no way affected by the exchange.

It took me a while to gather my thoughts on this book. I have very mixed feelings about the entire thing. For the first half of the book, it was weird, atmospheric, had me creeped out, and guessing what was actually going on. However, the second half the book lost the creepy charm for me. The first half follows this family and how our MC, Noah, came to be/the history of his family. The monster makes appearances and you get to follow Noah's parents and the descent into madness that each person has. Once Noah hits his teen years, the story shifts focus from his family unit to a one on one with him and the monster. It's there that the story started to lose my interest. I feel like this had a mildly decent explanation of the monster and what is going on but it wasnt enought to answer my questions really. It was still weird and eerie and the writing was perfect for the story being told.
I'd be interested in reading more from this author
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I love it when a debut novel catches me completely by surprise. A Cosmology of Monsters is creative, engrossing and just plain entertaining. It's a mash-up of monster horror, coming-of-age and family saga with a splash of strange fantasy and fate. The Turner family's story spans decades and is told by the youngest child, Noah. His family is plagued by monsters....both real and imagined.

I don't want to give away too much and ruin any part of the story, so I'm not going to say much about the plot or even the structure/POV of this novel. It all works together to bring the story full circle. I can say that this story completely sucked me in. I was up reading until the wee hours because I wanted to finish. Very entertaining read!! And very well-written. The story was something new....and it's well told. Nice mix of creepy and emotional.

I totally did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I expected a run-of-the-mill monster sort of story. But this book is so much more. Totally surprised me! Loved it!

I'm definitely looking forward to more by this author. I like his style.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Knopf-Doubleday via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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