Sunday, August 30, 2015

We Are All Completely Fine (book) by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine could be considered either fantasy or horror. I checked it out via interlibrary loan.

I'm not happy with my read-alikes list, but I tried.

Review:

Dr. Jan Sayer is a psychologist who decides to put together a special therapy group composed of people who have been through things too strange for most to completely believe. Harrison is a retired monster hunter who is semi-famous as the main character of a book series about a boy who hunts monsters. Stan is a half-forgotten celebrity whose fame comes from having been held captive and partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara was held captive by the Scrimshander, who cut her open and carved messages on her bones that she has never seen but can't stop thinking about. Martin wears special glasses for reasons he refuses to explain, just as he refuses to take them off. Greta is covered in scars that are almost beautiful in their complexity.

All of these people feel isolated by their pasts, and Dr. Sayer hopes that group therapy will help them feel less alone. What she doesn't anticipate is that bringing them all together might set something terrible and dangerous into motion.

I first became interested in this after reading several intriguing reviews. I purposely did not reread those reviews when I requested this book. I remembered something about the characters doing group therapy sessions, and that they were all victims of horrible monster attacks, but that was it.

I initially expected this book to be entirely about the characters and their progress in therapy, and the bulk of the story did deal with that. Most of the characters weren't immediately open about what they'd been through, or why their experiences made them ideal for this particular group. For example, although Stan wouldn't shut up about how awful being gradually eaten alive by cannibals had been, and how horrible his life was since then, the one thing he was reluctant to talk about was what made his captors different from average human monsters. Every single character had something they were hiding, or didn't want to bring to the group's attention, and I enjoyed gradually getting to learn everyone’s secrets, as terrible as they sometimes were.

This wasn't entirely about the group therapy sessions, however. Dr. Sayer inadvertently put everyone in a position to get involved in one particular character's problems, which weren't as much in the past as everyone thought. This part was okay, but it all progressed very quickly, and I found I liked it less than just getting to know each of the characters.

There was a revelation at the end that I didn't see coming at all, and that actually made me tear up (in public, ugh!). Even though I didn't always like this story's characters (Stan and Martin in particular), I felt for them. I may have to give Harrison Squared, Gregory's book starring a young Harrison, a try.

Read-alikes:
  • 14 (book) by Peter Clines - This is a good one if you'd like another mix of different characters and personalities, some of them with secrets, and some slightly Lovecraftian horror. I've written about the audiobook, which I enjoyed enough to listen to a couple times.
  • The Girl With All the Gifts (book) by M.R. Carey - I could be incredibly wrong about this read-alike suggestion - I haven't actually read it yet, although it's on my TBR. I've seen reviews that call it horror, and, reading the synopsis, it seems like it has an atmosphere of dread that might work for fans of Gregory's book. I'm intrigued that it seems to be horror that works well for people who don't normally like horror.
  • King of Thorn (manga) by Yuji Iwahara - It falls apart a little in the end, but the stuff up to that point is pretty good. Those who enjoyed the more action-filled parts of Gregory's book might want to give this a try. A group of people who have been cryogenically frozen after contracting a disease that will eventually cause them to harden and shatter wake up to find everyone in the facility gone. Not only that, the facility is infested with terrible monsters, and some of the newly awakened people are hiding things. I've written about this entire series, but beware, my posts include lots of spoilers.

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