We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory (Tachyon, August 2014)-Dr. Jan Sayer has gathered together a very interesting bunch for her new group therapy session. There’s Harrison, an aging Monster Hunter, and Barbara, who is still struggling through life, and the trappings of a family, 20 years after the Scrimshander carved his handiwork on her bones. There’s Stan, who is missing limbs because of his ordeal with the cannibalistic Weaver family so many years ago, and Martin, who wears VR goggles that, to him, reveal the presence of shadowy lurkers (which they call “dwellers”) that not only haunt the streets but nearly every aspect of his life. And then there is Greta, covered with scars, and the quietest and most enigmatic of the bunch. Martin is convinced there’s something definitely “off” about Greta…and there is, but it’s not quite what he thinks.

The story unfolds, at the beginning, like any group therapy session would, with the telling of each individual’s story, in fits and starts, until the reader gets a pretty good idea of where everyone is coming from, at least you’ll think you do. Each story is fascinating, and certainly terrifying, but it’s all building toward Greta, whose story has never really ended, and when she finally reveals it, it’s a punch in the gut in its insidiousness, and also its potential for wide scale disaster. It’s disaster that the group will eventually attempt to avert, and watching them come together to do it is a joy to behold. I fell in love with each of these damaged people, and as fragile as they are, they’re equally heroic, and the strength they’ve found in order to keep living after such trauma is haunting, and oddly inspiring.

Harrison is probably one of my favorite characters.He’s considered a hero, and in fact feels compelled to be heroic, but internally feels that he may be a bit of a coward. Not so, and he proves it admirably, if a bit clumsily. All of these characters winnowed their way under my skin. I didn’t really know that I loved them so much until the bad stuff hit the fan, but then, Gregory has always been good at the little things, the subtle things, even as not so subtle stuff starts happening. This is a creepy book, but it’s also oddly charming, but then, I love stories about broken people that find comfort in each other. There are also a few surprises at the end that are creepy and sweet at the same time. How does he do that?? I suppose much the same way he manages to make a book that comes in under 300 pages so nuanced and complex. This is a scary, funny, bittersweet, fantastic book, and Gregory’s imagination is twisted and wonderful. Good thing we’ve got Harrison Squared coming up in 2015. I’ll be the first in line.

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