Saturday, April 4, 2020

We Are All Just Fine creates a world that isn’t fine

We Are All Just Fine by Daryl Gregory is a book that teeters between being clever and being predictable. The elevator pitch of the book is that it’s about a support group for survivors of horror movies.

It’s not quite as pedantic as that. The actual story is how a therapist brings together five survivors of supernatural violence in a world where most people don’t believe in the supernatural. As they explore their interlocking secrets, they discover a new danger they have to deal with.

Honestly, describing it any further than that would involve lots of spoilers.  

I will say that there were a lot of elements that were supposed to be twists that were easy to see coming. One character had to have a specific secret and, given the limited cast, the process of elimination made it obvious who it was. At the same time, if the author decided to drop that story element, it would have been a glaring absence. In many ways, it was the literary equivalent of a thriller movie where the plot doesn’t challenge you at all.

At the same time, there are some very nice touches that do make it better interesting. None of the character fit neatly into a cliche. The character who would be the alpha male in most works is arguably the least effective person in the crisis, for instance. And, unlike Big Trouble in Little China, he knows it. The book creates a horrifying world.

But the strong point of the book is the tone and setting. The eldritch horrors that are out there are no humanized at all, even the ones that are part human. They are alien with goals that are never fully explained or realized. The characters are never in any real control and they remain vulnerable and scared to the end. 

And that made me glad I read the book.

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