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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: Harrison Squared

29th Nov, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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It appears that we are not yet clear of Lovecraft country. While I may have written up all the HPL inspired anthologies from my TBR pile, there are a couple of short novels by Daryl Gregory that require a quick look, and we'll start with Harrison Squared, which was released by Titan Books in March 2015.

Teenager Harrison Harrison (hence the squared) is afraid of the ocean, the legacy of a childhood accident which cost him both his father and his right leg. His marine biologist mother takes him to the backward town of Dunnsmouth, perched on rocks above the Atlantic Ocean. Harrison hates his new home, not just for the ocean but because of the almost cult like nature of the school he is forced to attend. Then his mother goes missing at sea and Aunt Selena arrives to take care of him. Harrison is convinced that his mother is still alive and that something very strange is going on in Dunnsmouth, but his attempts to find her bring him into conflict with the local authorities, a knife-wielding killer called the Scrimshander, and the Deep Ones. He also finds some unlikely allies - to misappropriate the words of Mr. Pete Townsend, 'The kids are doing alright'.

Obviously Gregory is channelling the HPL of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" here, but he makes the material his own. In the sinister Toad Mother and terrifying Scrimshander, who traps souls in the carvings he creates, Gregory gives us monsters that are as original as they are memorable, while the character of Lub makes a good case for the Deep Dwellers as people just like us except for the small matter of gills. Harrison is an engaging protagonist, quirky and sharp tongued, but with his heart in the right place, and though romance between them seems out of the question, classmate Lydia is his ideal companion, a dominant female in the Wednesday Addams mould. And a cry out too for feisty and larger than life Aunt Selena, who is a more than acceptable mother substitute for our hero, so laid back that she's almost horizontal at times, but supporting Harrison and giving him the back up that he needs when it comes to dealing with the school and authority figures. The book's plot is nicely woven around the central idea of raising outré entities, while the sense of a strange cult at work is given a thoroughly modern and credible twist, a conspiracy theory that not only has legs, but fins as well. The writing seems effortless and while the tone is undoubtedly serious throughout, there are elements of both charm and black comedy that stop it becoming dully earnest. I was entertained by this book and had a good time in Dunnsmouth, though I don't think I'd include it on any list of possible holiday destinations - Great Yarmouth may be overly commercialised, but on this showing it's far safer. In conclusion, Daryl Gregory is a writer to watch. 




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