Book Review: A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

Out 9/17/19. Thank you to Pantheon and Netgalley for providing an ARC. Original review posted to Trigger warnings for suicide, child abduction, child abuse, child murder, and inappropriate teacher/student relationships.

There are monsters in the world, unspeakable evils that rob us of that which is most precious to us. Life can break your heart and rip you apart, but Noah Turner has more to contend with than the familiar horrors of human existence. Noah can see monsters, like real monsters. Big harry creatures. And they can see him too.

Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters is an incredibly touching story about the Turner family. What starts off as a cute love story quickly turns to sorrow as Harry and Margaret Turner and their three children face tragedy after tragedy over the years. But in the midst of their struggles (struggles that many of us would recognize and be acquainted with), a fantastical element rears it’s furry, sharp-toothed head. A true monster has had its sights on the Turner family for decades, and Noah, the youngest, decides to let it into his home, his family, and his heart. What Noah doesn’t know is that his father also saw monsters, and his mother knew something was wrong.

I knew from the cover art that this was a book I needed to pick up. Once I read the synopsis I was hooked, and I couldn’t put it down. This stunning literary horror debut hit me in all the right places. I was up way past lights out flipping the pages, fully invested in the Turner family’s story and the monster(s) that haven’t stopped haunting them for generations. I couldn’t get enough of the throwback 80s/90s vibes mixed with Lovecraftian horror! Despite it being a horror/fantasy novel, I found it oddly relatable.

Not only did Hamill tell an amazing and spooky tale, but he successfully created a cross-genre masterpiece. When people think of horror, their minds usually go to slashers or haunted houses. It is actually an incredibly rich and diverse genre with a little something for everyone. The beauty of horror is that it can act as an incredibly effective mirror to society. The really timeless horror writers recognize this and build their spine-tingling tales on elements rooted in real life.

Good horror is like a good lie, there’s a lot of truth mixed in with the rest. In A Cosmology of Monsters, I would say that truth element is generational trauma. The Turner family faces a lot of hardship, but their biggest struggle is one of communication and forgiveness. It’s a story of regret, reconciliation, and family healing. But don’t get me wrong, it’s also about big scary monsters and a hidden inter-dimensional city hungry for your soul. Don’t worry, there are true horror elements wrapped up in the interpersonal family drama. Hamill’s writing is so beautifully descriptive that it will make you cry and shiver in equal measure.

A Cosmology of Monsters has absolutely landed itself on my favorites of 2019 list. If you enjoy family sagas, literary fiction, horror, or science fiction I highly recommend this debut novel by Hamill. I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of the TV shows Stranger Things and This Is Us (weird, I know).  I would also compare A Cosmology of Monsters to Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, both pulling on Lovecraftian elements and involving family stories over generations.