This book came as a recommendation by Amazon and this time, the recommendation algorithm worked (usually it is a wee bit off the mark).
Right from the start, I was hooked. Before the first chapter are two brief excerpts from popular works of famous authors. One by Ray Bradbury and one by H.P. Lovecraft. Then came the title of chapter one: The Picture in the House, titled after a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.
Homages to Lovecraft abound
Every chapter is named after a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and the Master of the Macabre and his work are a constant presence in A Cosmology of Monsters. This is because some of the protagonists, the central ones in particular, are fans of Lovecraft or have at least read Lovecraft, and because of the shadow of cosmic horror. The element of cosmic horror is not as unpersonal, uncaring, and world-ending as in Lovecraft, but there is this element of a further , dreadful layer of reality out there, that we can do little about, and if we do something, there is a price to pay. To say more would be a massive spoiler.
The influence of Lovecraft goes even deeper into the lives of the protagonists, specifically the central family of the novel. An anthology of Lovecraft’s stories is the reason why the narrator’s mother goes on a second date with her future husband, who is of course the narrator’s father.
A rational explanation for everything
The monsters of A Cosmology of Monsters appear early, but for a long time, there is a rational explanation for everything:
Mental illness, brain tumors, stress. Even after Noah (the narrator) invites one of the monsters into his room, it can still be explained away as an imaginary friend of a lonely and neglected child. The reader is still left in limbo. Maybe it is just a kind of mental illness that runs in the family. Maybe it is just a child’s overactive imagination. Maybe it is because the family operates a horror show business and everybody is just a little too involved. Everything is still explainable, until…
The harsh reality of A Cosmology of Monsters
Until the monsters take Noah’s eldest sister and Noah first teams up with his monster and the two become ever closer.
All of a sudden everything makes sense in a very different way. Still, the floodgates of horror are not opened. The dread just seeps in through the cracks. The cracks in Noah’s family, the cracks in Noah’s other relationships and the relationships of all his family members, and the cracks in reality.
Noah discovers there is a lot more about his monster than he would have imagined, and there are others. There is a place where they live and where they take people, and where they do things to people.
He also discovers that his relationship to the monster harassing his family for several generations is unique.
Nobody is safe.
When Noah meets his wife and they eventually move away, things quiet down and there is a certain sense of security.
Of course, it does not last. Noah’s other sister is taken, too.
A decision and a price
In the end, Noah realizes it is all up to him. He can safe his family from the monsters and bring them all home if he so chooses. But there is a price to pay. He can also choose to let others pay the price. Sacrifice others for the benefit of his family. How it ends… You will have to read it yourselves.
My verdict for A Cosmology of Monsters
I binged it in two days, that is really all that needs to be said. I also had a “Just one more chapter” moment, that lead me to reading until 2 a.m., something I have not had in a long time.
I found A Cosmology of Monsters impossible to put down. I was completely absorbed. The story, the characters, and the locations are fascinating. The sense of unreality omnipresent and captivating. A masterpiece and the best read I have had in years. I cannot find a flaw in this novel.
10 out of 10 screaming horrors from the shadows and also Editor’s pick!