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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: We Are All Completely Fine

6th Dec, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Published by Tachyon in 2014, Daryl Gregory's short novel We Are All Completely Fine is actually a sequel of sorts to 2015's Harrison Squared, which I reviewed last Wednesday. At least it contains/references some of the same characters. I'd hazard a guess that Gregory was so taken with a couple of them that he decided to flesh out their back story, hence the prequel.

Psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer organises a support group for patients who have had encounters with the paranormal. There's Harrison, of Squared fame, now in his thirties and known as the Monster Detective thanks to a series of children's books chronicling his adventures. Barbara had an encounter with the monstrous Scrimshander, also from Squared, and lived to tell the tale, but is tormented by the carvings he made on her bones, which she can never see. Stan was partly consumed by the Weaver Family of cannibals, only surviving thanks to the intervention of the child known to him as Pest. Martin never takes off his gaming goggles, believing that they let him see the world as it really is. And finally there is the young woman Greta, whose body was covered by intricate patterns carved into her flesh by the Sisters and who is extremely reluctant to tell her story. Together these people interact and come, however reluctantly, to form a bond, so when the Sisters attempt to bring their plans for Greta to fruition they are the only ones who might stop them.

This is a book where so much of what transpires does so in the background of the story, while in the foreground we have a therapy group, each member addressing their personal problems. It is an inventive approach to telling the greater story, which involves human beings with special powers and the attempts by alien creatures to access our reality. The concept of a self-help group for those who have suffered as these people have is wonderful and realised with real panache. The characters are beautifully drawn, each with their own foibles (e.g. Stan's OCD and hoarding, Barbara's distancing herself from family), a group of 'freaks' discovering their common humanity through the medium of each other. The group interaction between then is riveting, with some dialogue that crackles and alliances being formed. The plot is one of continual surprises as we learn more about what is intended, while the end game with the Sisters when it comes is pure excitement, with the stakes never higher and little to suggest a way for Harrison and the others to resolve their problem, though of course they do. There are moments of humour too, as with the interplay between Stan and Martin, enemies at first and then unlikely allies and even friends. At the risk of undercutting Gregory's accomplishment here, I'd label the book as Horror fiction's answer to such comic book creations as The Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad, misfits banding together for a common end. I liked this book a lot. It's not great horror, but it is inventive and different enough in its approach to intrigue and entertain.





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