Harrison was the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties, and spends most of his time popping pills and not sleeping. Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by unreadable messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. Martin never takes off his sunglasses. Never.
No one believes the extent of their horrific tales, not until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these seemingly-insane outcasts form a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within—and which are lurking in plain sight.
Title: We Are All Completely Fine
Author: Daryl Gregory
Category: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Publication Date: August 12, 2014
Format: NetGalley Digital Review Copy
Length: 112 pages
Series or Standalone: Standalone
POV: Multiple Perspectives, Blended
Reviewer: Atsiko Ureni
How I Got It: Daryl Gregory, writer of beautifully bizarre fiction such as Afterparty and Pandemonium is a writer I have long followed but never read. I’d only heard good things, and I always liked his premises, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. An ARC from NetGalley seemed like just the impetus I was lacking, and I’m very grateful to Nick for providing it.
I don’t often read horror, but Gregory is an eclectic writer, so I figured I’d take the chance this time. I don’t regret it. Gregory has a strong command of his characters, something speculative fiction has oft been accused of lacking. The horror elements of the story were more like seeds or remnants, rarely seen in the flesh–even in psychological horror terms-but I think that’s part of what makes the idea of the story so intriguing, and it lets Gregory make good use of his characterization skills in a way pure horror doesn’t always allow.
The therapeutic setting may not be the most original, but it managed to remain quite active despite the obvious sedentary nature of such sessions.
Harrison plays the sort of mentor character by way of providing a great deal of elegantly inserted exposition, background, and validation to the other characters. I thought of him as the main character, despite the shifting perspectives, and I think he did a good job anchoring the narrative and the dynamics between the other characters.
Jan, as she likes to be known, is the therapist who creates the inciting incident of the story, and Gregory’s light touch in imparting the reasons for the group’s existence is a nice change from the heavy-handed foreshadowing one often comes across in pulp horror. The same goes for the unraveling of the web of history that connects the characters, history they themselves ma be unaware of. You’d think a story that deals so much with the past would drag, but it doesn’t, and the tantalizing hints of back-story definitely left me wanting more about these characters. It felt like I only got a snapshot of the characters’ lives, and that their stories existed long before that snapshot and will keep going long after. And yet the snapshot itself was still very satisfying. That’s something I consider a mark of a superior story–there are loose ends and secrets and histories the reader is unaware of, but it adds to rather than detracts from the story.
Also, +1 for using augmented reality in a horror story.
It’s safe to say I’ll be picking up a few other Daryl Gregory books after reading this, and I urge everyone else to do the same.
I think anyone who reads speculative or literary fiction would enjoy this book, no matter what they usually read.
Conclusion: 87/100 (An 87 is actually a really high rating, coming from me.)
Premise: 9/10 (Fresh and engaging)
Plot: 9/10 (Compact, but well-constructed)
Setting: 8/10 (Strongly evoked)
Main Character: 10/10 (Citing Harrison, lovely aged boy wonder)
World-building 9/10 (No info-dumping, great details)
Horror Elements 6/10 (Not all that much horror, even psychologically)
Supporting Characters: 10/10 (Well-crafted)
Writing: 8/10 (Well-written)
Themes: 8/10 (Trauma and related themes lovingly conveyed)
Resolution: 9/10 (Made sense, left you thinking)
Buy Or Borrow: Totally buy.