“Life’s fucked up. It just is. It’s got ups and downs and I say it’s worse not appreciating the good things, because then what’s the point? It’s like the Native Americans used to say, right? Gotta use all of the buffalo. Life is a whole damn animal, and you can’t waste any part of it.”
Del Rey Books | 2021
Filed Under: It’s only missing Voldemort
Oooo shit, this is one hell of a novel.
Coming in at nearly 600 pages, it looks like an intimidating read and ya girl is definitely not a fan of thicc novels, but let me tell you, this does not read like a big ass book.
There is so much happening all of the time in every single chapter, that the pace never takes its foot off the gas. You fly through this fat-bottom girl like… I don’t have a metaphor for this, but whatever. It’s a fast read is my point. You get it. And that’s a testament to Wendig’s plotting and writing voice.
I’m calling Wendig the Tolkein of horror because this book is an epic. This couldn’t be a movie. It would need to be a TV series to fit in every scene – they are all important and if anything was cut out I would fucking riot. Don’t get it twisted though, I don’t mean Tolkein in the boring, over-detailed way J.R.R. does fantasy.
Don’t come for me Tolkein stans! I don’t care! You know reading about thirty different kinds of rocks and trees is boring AF.
With that said, this book took a lot out of me emotionally. And you know I’m mostly dead inside, so that’s saying something. This novel gave me the worst book hangover. And at my age, hangovers can last for multiple consecutive, and even non-consecutive, days. It’s like you think you’re starting to feel better, but just wait, there’s a second wave!
I was so attached to the Graves family that everything they were going through was hitting me right in the feels. Don’t do it, Oli! What the fuck, Maddie! OMG come back, Nate!
Just to put a visual on it, this was me after it was over:
Now, if want to know what happens in this, the honest answer is I don’t fucking know. This was the weirdest, most in-depth nonsense I’ve ever read in my life. I loved it, but also couldn’t begin to tell you what it was actually about. I’ll give it my best shot though.
Nate and Maddie move their empath son, Oliver, back to the house Nate grew up in when his alcoholic, abusive father dies. And then some serious shit happens. There are bullies, robot art, other dimensions, multiverse shit, wooden owls that come to life and dudes in mines being weird, which was such a claustrophobic scene I really felt it. There’s a creepy kid who is too old to be hanging around young teens, dudes in clouds, dudes in lightning, melancholy dudes in cottages, animals acting like living red flags and a dark magic book that struck me as a reverse Mary Poppin’s purse.
This is a shining example of supernatural-horror done right. There weren’t any real scares, but it was consistently creepy, start to finish. And the supernatural elements were unique and fucked up. Every time I opened this up again, I could immediately dive right back into the dark and moody world that Wendig created. The atmosphere was next-level. And while the plot had moments where it was straight-up brilliant, there was one aspect that kept this from being a five-star read for me – how convoluted the plot gets.
I don’t know if it was the plot’s fault or the weed’s fault, but there were times while reading this where I was confused as fuck. And then other times I was just borderline confused, like I got it but if I thought about it too hard, the concept disintegrated between my figurative fingers. If I have ever called a book convoluted before today, I take it back. This is convoluted. Like I was vibing with it fully, but also I didn’t totally get how or why or when.
And the time-jumping? Forget it. My brain does not compute time travel, time jumps, time slips, time anything. Sorry – can’t do it, can’t get it, but also don’t want to get it. It almost makes me angry because time travel is fundamentally a clusterfuck idea. Keeping trying I guess, but if it was Hermoine making the wolf noise in Prisoner of Azkaban the first time around, and it was her the second time after she time travelled, then why would events unfold any differently than they did originally, which triggered the time travel idea in the first place? I don’t fucking get it. But, don’t even try to explain it to me, Harry Potter stans! I just do not have time for any time travel plot lines. I don’t want them. Get them out of here.
That said, even being confused roughly 34% of the time, wasn’t enough to ruin my reading experience. I was fully invested in the Graves family and every last weird and harrowing thing that happened to them. The characters in this novel are so human and tangible while the events are otherworldly and paranormal. The writing is genuine with such an easy flow, that it is easy to get lost in this detailed and complex world, but the details never bog down the pace and energy of the plot.
I highly recommend this to everyone, but especially those who enjoy being emotionally destroyed by creepy novels.
Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.