Title: A Cosmology of Monsters
Author: Shaun Hamill
Release date: September 17th, 2019
One thing I try really, really, really hard to do, is to not mention/discuss/compare my own writing within a book review because this space is about me sharing to you (whomever is reading these reviews) about a book I’ve read and what I think you’ll enjoy and what may make you decide to read it. It shouldn’t be about why you should read my work/buy it or how something I’ve written exists in the same space as someone else’s book.
But every once in a while, a book comes along that pushes that to the test. ‘A Cosmology of Monsters’ is such a book. Shaun Hamill is a fantastic guy. We’ve connected via social media and seeing his success has been fantastic, yet – up until now – I had to hold off on reading this. The reason was that a few folks who’ve read the book had messaged me before and told me that the atmosphere and ‘base idea’ (not to say anyone copied anyone etc etc) was eerily reminiscent of my own novella ‘Wagon Buddy.’
I’m still in the ‘Wagon Buddy’ world. In fact, just yesterday I plotted/outlined the third and final ‘Wagon Buddy’ novella. So, out of fairness, I wanted to give myself and this book some space to make sure I could enjoy it as much as I knew I would.
So, how is it “similar”? In Hamill’s, a young kid who’s father has died just after he was born, discovers he has a nightly visitor, a large, clawed beast that seems to be there to be his friend and protect him. He’s not sure where they’re from and the friend won’t tell him. But it opens up so many questions that Noah Turner, our young kid, wants to learn more.
In mine, Scott, a young kid, who’s father has abandoned his family, is bullied. Discovering an immense, trench-coat, mask wearing imaginary friend one day, realizes his friend is there to protect him. He’s not sure where they’re from and the friend won’t tell him. But it opens up so many questions for Scott.
Now, other than those, there are some similarities in the journey our characters take from start to finish, but that’s about it, two very very different stories that are grounded by this shared space of a young kid, growing up, trying to find their place in the world, but also having this friend that they can’t tell anyone about. Love it.
What I liked: As mentioned above, the story follows our main character, Noah, over the course of his life. We get to see the family before he arrives and their decision to create and operate a haunted house attraction.
From there, we see the spider web cracks created by Noah’s father falling ill and how his passing away affects each of the kids and his mom, as well as the tangible effects that reverberate following.
Hamill writes with such sublime prose. Each and every page hummed and crackled with energy but also the sorrow of a father’s passing. I really loved seeing how Noah’s relationships with his two sister’s and even his mom, were so unique and decidedly different than the other.
The monster who scratches on his window and begins to form a friendship was fantastic as well. I loved the amount of detail/story we got with them and thoroughly loved seeing how Hamill expanded upon it more and more, until we arrived at a point where a decision needed to be made.
Throughout, we have a side story of kidnapped/disappearing people, which worked really well, but when it happened directly to the Turner family, it really elevates the anxiety that seemed to be running just below the surface of the story, but also the tension between the family themselves.
The ending of this was perfect. With how Hamill had set it up and got us from A-B, I was so happy to see us return to C and get the closure we needed, but also the wrap up with the creatures.
What I didn’t like: The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was a specific character within The Fellowship. This was a group of characters who were having meetings to discuss how their family members had disappeared mysteriously. The main male annoyed me to no end, but the character was used well in their minimal involvement.
Why you should buy this: Hamill has really created a beautiful story here, one that covers decades, and how people change the inevitable creep of time can change and sculpt things in ways you never expect. The use of Lovecraft at the beginning to open the concept of other dimensions or monsters among us was great, but the fact that Hamill really created and owned his own monsters within this was stunning.
I’m so happy that I’ve now read this and it’s a book that explores relationships so well that often you’ll forget you’re reading a truly dark, horrific book where people will be ripped apart and stolen in the blink of an eye.