The internet has been telling me to read Daniel Gregory. Possibly the internet primarily consists of Jenny at Reading the End, but I don't keep track of how things end up on my to-read list, so we can just assume that the internet is to blame. On Wednesday I read her review of We Are All Completely Fine and immediately requested a copy fro Netgalley. They sent it, I started reading it, and I read it in one big gulp last night. She was right; I should be reading this guy.
I think I was turned off because his books are hard to blurb--a combination between complex world-building that doesn't read well in succinct, back-cover layout, and somewhat grim, grotesque images that seem offputting without the context of a gripping story. Check the blurb for The Devil's Alphabet; long, confusing, and not actually that appealing.
But we all know what a good author can do with a complicated story.
We Are All Complete Fine is a novella, and its simplicity belies all that's going on here. First, the premise is so intuitive that I wish there were more stories like it; this is a support group for people with...unusual histories. Really, it's made up of five people who have survived, essentially, horror movies. I won't give them away, because the unfolding stories are half of the book, but the point is, if you are that one person who survives to the end of The Ring or The Hills Have Eyes or whatever horror movie I haven't seen but seriously, how do you go on?
There's always this point made at the beginning of a movie like that of how normal life is, how this person is Just Like You, living in a world where Weird Things don't happen, and then suddenly reality changes for them and they are in a horror movie. There would be some emotional fallout there, right? This is what I always liked about The Hunger Games, that there's no pretense that you come out of that just tougher, stronger, more cynical. You also come out confused, and broken, and miserable.
So we have a therapy group. And I mean "we" literally, because each chapter is framed in the first person plural, then zooms into the third person singular to follow a character. This was a weakness, only because the group goes from "we" to "they" and back to "we" in each chapter, which is just weak. I know first person plural is tough to pull off, but if you're going to do it, commit to it.
That's my only complaint. It's complicated, rich, creepy as all get out. It's about survivor guilt, but also about how much responsibility we should actually accept for what we suspect or know about, about how small, casual choices can have big repercussions, and how no bystander is completely innocent.
And now I ran out to the library and have more Daryl Gregory on my stack. Because Jenny was right and I should really be reading him.
(Thank you to NetGalley for my review copy of this book.)