Monday, June 4, 2018


by Daniel Kraus
Recommended Ages: 14+

Boy, is this book dark. I'm not saying I don't like it. Nor should I really be surprised. I have two previous experiences of reading books by Daniel Kraus that should have forewarned me. The first was Rotters, featuring a terrifying father who forces his son to follow in his footsteps as a graverobber, not to mention a monster in human form who makes you sympathize with the dad by comparison. Then there's Trollhunters (co-authored with Guillermo del Toro), the book on which the dark fantasy animated TV series was based; only after you read it the TV version won't seem so dark.

Then there's this story, featuring a young man named Ry Burke who barely survived a rampage by his abusive father nine years ago, thanks in part to a psychotic break in which the voices of three toys coached him through the ordeal. Now age 19, he still lives with his mom, struggles to cultivate the family's dying farm, and seems to be going nowhere in life - until a meteorite busts his pop out of prison. Just when dear old dad is about to shoot Ry dead for his boyhood betrayal, another meteorite lands on the farm and the voices return. This time, Ry isn't so inclined to listen to the kindly bear or the serene figurine of Jesus Christ. This time, he may not be able to hold back the terrible personality known as Scowler, even if it takes him too far. This time, Ry's father won't be the only monster threatening his family's survival.

Don't mistake me, it's a heartbreaking book. Even so, I didn't always find Ry a sympathetic character. I'm not sure I really want to explore the genre, whose existence I glimpsed in Amazon's list of books customers bought along with this one, of stories about hero kids whose parents brought them up to be killers. I mean, that is sooo dark. For the same reason I like The Flash but have no interest in Arrow, I found this book almost as much distressing as entertaining. Let the fact that I found it, after all, mostly satisfying suffice to tell you whether the hero proves to be good or evil in the end.

Daniel Kraus is also the author of The Monster Variations, which I'm not going to read; the "Death and Life of Zebulon Finch" duad of At the Edge of Empire and Empire Decayed; and The Shape of Water, also co-written with del Toro as a companion to his award-winning movie by the same name. It is also rumored that Kraus is going to complete George A. Romero's unfinished book The Living Dead.

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