I really enjoyed Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine wherein the titular hero of Harrison Squared, Harrison Harrison, is introduced. It was a quiet, contemplative novella about monsters and scars that was equal parts heart-warming and chilling. A prequel of sorts Harrison Squared is Harrison’s origin story featuring his first brush with the supernatural. It also borrows heavily from H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth so reader’s familiar with Lovecraft’s work may be able to telegraph where the novel is going. Despite this fact (or maybe because of it) I found Harrison Squared to be an entertaining supernatural yarn.
Harrison Squared opens with Harrison and his mother’s (a marine biologist) arrival in the town of Dunnsmouth. She is there to place buoys in order to track any potential large oceanic creature in the seas of the nearby Atlantic. This mission is something of a personal crusade for Harrison’s mother as her husband (along with part of Harrison’s leg) was lost to an attack by a sea creature years before. Gregory quickly goes about establishing Harrison’s character whose teenage independence is predicated both on his mother’s obsessive tendencies and a result of coping with his disability.
In terms of tone Harrison Squared is way different then We Are All Completely Fine. Despite having elements of the supernatural and horror present Harrison Squared remains a light tone focusing more on the mystery then on the horror. It is still difficult to reconcile the Harrison seen here with the Harrison of We Are All Completely Fine. Indeed the first otherworldly creature we meet in the novel is not quite that frightening all (please note: this is an understatement; he is actually quite hilarious). The Scrimshander seen in Harrison Squared, while a frightening figure for sure, isn’t the same level of scary as the Scrimshander mentioned in We Are All Completely Fine. There is no real sense of dread throughout Harrison Squared to the point where I cannot rightfully call this a horror novel.
While it disappointing that Harrison Squared is as light-hearted as it is the novel remains an entertaining read. With its teen hero, quick pacing, and light tone Harrison Squared is a novel that can appeal to both adults and teen readers. I am hoping for further novels featuring Harrison and I’m filled with equal parts dread a (perhaps sick) excitement at seeing how the relatively bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teen of Harrison Squared morphs into the cynical and downtrodden adult of We Are All Completely Fine.