Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory (Tor-March 24th, 2015)-Love Lovecraft? If so, you’re in for a treat with Daryl Gregory’s rather charming new book. 16 year old Harrison Harrison (H2 for short) is in Dunnsmouth, MA, with his mother Rosa (an oceanographer), who is there on a research trip, and as soon as he sets foot into Dunnsmouth Secondary, he gets an odd feeling. The school is decidedly weird: the pool is in an underground cave, the school mascot is a thresher shark, and the enigmatic Principal Montooth claims to have met Harrison’s father years ago. At first blush, the students and teachers are pretty weird, too. Harrison notices that the kids seem to communicate by finger movements, and he’s instantly intrigued. However, Harrison and his mom are barely there for a day when Rosa disappears out on the ocean, while placing research buoys. He’s already lost one parent, along with part of his leg in a swimming accident as a toddler, and he’s not about to lose his mom, so he decides to investigate. It seems that the entire town is hiding something, and it also seems that he’s being spied on by a humanoid creature with webbed hands and feet.
Harrison’s cosmopolitan Aunt Sel has come to look after him, and luckily, Aunt Sel doesn’t fit the traditional guardian role, so she doesn’t discourage Harrison from digging into his mom’s disappearance. So, we’ve got a cult-like school with students that communicate by fingercant, a missing mother, and a mysterious madman that seems to be out to get Harrison. Elder Gods mythos and Harrison’s memory of an attack by an ocean leviathan certainly give the book its Lovecraftian feel, and his new friend from the sea, Lub, a humanoid, fish-like Dweller, is a delight. Harrison also finds friendship in the dour Lydia, who eventually plays a big part in his investigation into his mom’s disappearance. Harrison Squared is a fantastic read, and the author uses wry humor (especially with Lydia and also Harrison’s own narrative) to wonderful effect, which only underscores the very real terrors that Harrison must deal with. I couldn’t help but notice that Harrison Squared would be great read for teens as well, since they will certainly identify with Gregory’s take on high school. It’s rare to walk that fine line of Adult/YA crossover, but Daryl Gregory pulls it off easily, and with plenty of panache. Harrison is very easy to root for, with a gently sarcastic sense of humor, and he keeps that sense of humor, even in the face of great danger. Things get dark, but they never get too dark, and it’s as much a coming of age story for Harrison as it is an effective adventure. This is such a fun read, and if you haven’t discovered Daryl Gregory yet, this would be a great place to start.