Sixteen year old Harrison Harrison, or as he’s affectionately called by his marine biologist mother, H2, is moving to the Massachusetts town of Dunnsmouth so she can carry out her latest research involving creatures of the deep. It’s not long before things take a very strange turn. The kids at school all share a similar look and are oddly silent, and his mother disappears in a boating accident two days after they arrive. Harrison already lost his father when he was a toddler during the same boating incident which claimed one of his legs. He’s not about to give up on his mother and determinedly sets out to investigate the accident. Aided only by a few of his classmates and a mysterious stranger, Harrison will have to face off against not only town officials, but also otherworldly foes if he’s to rescue his mother and save the world before it’s too late.
Harrison Squared is the prequel to Daryl Gregory’s 2014 novella We Are All Completely Fine, which I really need to read now. This is definitely an homage to Lovecraft and if you’re a fan you should consider adding this to your collection. While it has all the elements of Lovecraftian horror, it also possesses a sly sense of humor which had me laughing several times while reading. For example, one of the in-jokes are the names Harrison and his mom have given to their research buoys. They’re named after masters of horror: King, Straub, Poe, and of course Lovecraft. And then there’s the parody of high school with it’s mausoleum-like atmosphere, nautical themed classes, and students that are strangely well behaved. The humor never gets in the way of the story though. Harrison is an intriguing character who is wonderfully written. Having memories of a tentacled sea monster not only killing his father, but severing his leg, he hasn’t let this define him. He has an engaging personality with a refreshing sense of humor, and shares a touchingly close relationship with his mom, Rosa. He’s also loyal and stubbornly will not give up on the people he cares about. His allies which include a classmate named Lydia, and the aforementioned mysterious stranger further add to a richly told tale. It’s often difficult to maintain a balance between humor and horror, but Daryl Gregory pulls it off brilliantly. I think any horror aficionado will love this book.