A Cosmology of Monsters
By Shaun Hamill
A Cosmology of Monsters will be released in the UK on June 2nd, from Titan Books.
It is currently available in the US.
This is one of those books where it’s hard to really summarise the events. A lot happens in A Cosmology of Monsters, a novel that spans decades, focused on a single family. It starts with Noah Turner’s parents, Margaret and Harry, who bond over a shared love of books. But as their relationship grows, something dark lurks at the corners. They have two daughters, Sydney and Eunice, but Harry starts to change. He becomes obsessed with the creation of a haunted house, and the family creates The Wandering Dark, ensuring Harry’s legacy before his untimely death.
When Noah is a child, his mother and sisters resurrect the haunted house, though they shield him from the imagined monsters contained inside, and the real ones circling their family. But one night, Noah finds he can no longer resist the knocking at his window, and the monster waiting for him isn’t as scary as he imagined. Instead, it becomes his friend, setting him on a course that will affect the rest of his life, and his family.
It’s a lot. It’s a long book, almost 450 pages on Kindle, a book that can slot into a variety of different subgenres. It’s got Lovecraftian elements, combined with a family saga and coming-of-age tale. We see this family grow, we see and feel their pain and heartbreak and rare moments of joy, all through the eyes of Noah.
Hamill does a fantastic job with the point of view. Even the story of Harry and Margaret retains the viewpoint of their youngest child, looking back on the family and with his own ideas slipping in here and there.
It’s hard not to feel for Noah. On a personal level, I could identify with his position in the family, the baby with two older siblings (in his case, two sisters, in mine, two brothers), trying to forge his own place in an already established dynamic, with a distant mother and siblings who increasingly have more to think about than their little brother. Noah adores his sisters, especially Eunice, and he feels it deeply when she pulls away from him. He’s left out of the planning for the haunted house revival, and becomes an afterthought, mostly left to his own devices. He’s also confronted with situations he doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to cope with, and he’s a very real, vivid character who comes through really well throughout the novel.
Threaded throughout the story are a variety of themes, but the most persistent is mental health and trauma. Harry’s death – and his strange actions and attitudes proceeding it – is the catalyst for the whole family. Margaret struggles to fulfil her role as mother. Sydney battles against her mother, deeply affected by her father’s death, and Eunice deals with depression throughout her life, deepened by the fact she can never truly be herself. Like Noah, each character feels fully fleshed out, each dealing with their own internal battles while the external presses in on the family.
This is a thoroughly engaging novel, and though it’s long, it rarely felt like it. It covers a lot, and gives a fantastic picture of a family haunted through two generations. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for anything else Hamill releases in the future, and strongly recommend A Cosmology of Monsters, especially for those who want something with just a slight touch of Stephen King.
Review by Elle Turpitt
I received this e-book from Titan Publishers via NetGalley.