We Are All Completely Fine is a book about monsters and the scars they leave. It centers on a group of survivors who have each encountered something strange. This group, brought together by Dr. Jan Sayer, each bear the scars of their experiences. There is Stan, the only survivor to make it out alive (though not wholly intact) after being held by a family of cannibals; Martin, a shut-in geek who never takes off his glasses; Barbara, who survived flaying at the hands of a monster who carved intricate designs into her bones; Greta, a mysterious young woman with a penchant for fire; and Harrison Harrison, aka Harrison Squared who in his youth was a semi-famous monster detective who was featured in fictionalized in a series of novels based on his real-life experiences. The group gathers together reluctantly. The various experiences of each of this weird support group makes trusting and sharing rather difficult.
We Are All Completely Fine has some wonderful depth for a novella. Gregory doesn’t provide all the details at the outset yet still manages to convey a cohesive world. There is an innate sense of connectedness to the support group; apparent to the reader even if it isn’t readily apparent to the characters. Harrison sort of takes the forefront of the proceedings as the primary narrator and Gregory imbues his perspective with a satisfactory world-weariness. Harrison immediately seems to be the type of person who never really lived a “normal” life and now, when he tries to step away from who he was, he seems to have found the our strange has become his “normal.”
The novella unfolds sort of like a series of interconnected short stories. Gregory uses the tale of each of the survivors to slowly uncover a web of connection. Barbara is for my money the most fascinating part of the story. There is an aching sense of disconnection in her story, reinforced by the brief glimpse from her perspective. Barbara is a women trapped within herself; an impartial observer to her own life. The slow reveal of what she does in her “art studio” is beautifully accomplished and absolutely chilling. As each of the survivor’s relays their tale Gregory uses the knowledgeable Harrison as the reader’s primary source of exposition. That exposition is kept light; it offers just enough detail to pique interest but not enough to bog down the pacing.
Daryl Gregory has crafted a chilling and emotionally engaging novella in We Are All Completely Fine. As a result I regret that I’ve not ready any of the author’s previous work. For a novella just shy of two hundred pages We Are All Completely Fine contains surprising depths thanks to sense of connectedness Gregory imbues in both his world and characters. I got the impression that Gregory was particularly enamored with Harrison a fact I think is proven when Tor released its Spring 2015 catalog which contains Harrison Squared; a novel that will contain in detail the story of Harrison’s origins only hinted of here. While it was released over the summer We Are All Completely Fine is a book worth looking at if you’re looking for something a little bit dark this October.