... a uniquely weird and wonderful reading experience ... Blending horror, fantasy, and literary fiction, Hamill draws the reader into the world of the Turner family with ease ... Divided into seven parts, each part of this book is thoughtfully structured ... twists and turns in unexpected ways, providing bits of information throughout which the reader is responsible for collecting, assessing, and synthesizing. The reader is certain to be surprised countless times by the revelations and connections Hamill makes throughout the book. The second half of the novel in particular really picks up speed, gripping the reader and inducing a frenzied turning of pages in order to get to the crux of who these monsters are and what they want with the Turners ... The writing is simply haunting, the story full of heart. Hamill strikes upon meaningful themes throughout the book ... I highly recommend this novel for fans of Paul Tremblay and Stephen King. Much in the vein of these two celebrated horror writers, Hamill has built a rich world full of complex characters and he successfully delivers in showing how the horrors of real life can be just as terrifying as any monster.
... a beautifully crafted and terrifying thrill ride of a book ... Hamill uses the jumps in time wisely; the cuts between years are never jarring. And he avoids the nostalgia trap that tends to mire other writers who choose the recent past as their settings ... He does make some sly references, though, which he then subverts in seriously creepy ways ... Hamill traffics in the disturbing, like Stephen King at his most upsetting ... almost more John Irving than King, since Hamill writes about family, sex, and all things grotesque with a gleeful openness. In a way, the novel is a twisted coming-of-age tale, with all the benchmarks of male adolescence—shame, jealousy, anger, and id—personified in the form of a monster and transformed into literal horror ... a novel that’s both beautiful and terrifying, which isn’t the easiest thing to pull off. Hamill knows how to craft great horror fiction, but he’s also a keen observer of how families cope with loss and with one another. He recognizes that not everything gets resolved neatly, that sometimes darkness just leads to more darkness.
I was halfway through Texas author Shaun Hamill’s debut novel A Cosmology of Monsters before I could tell you what it was about, but I was loving every second of it all the same ... The book is a mesmerizing, meandering, dark tale of growing up and finding monsters all around you ... What makes Cosmology of Monsters both fun and awful to read is how expertly Hamill threads the line between normalcy and atrocity. He leads a reader very slowly from general unease and a few cheap scares to a mind-blowing realization about the truth behind all our fears. It’s, well, just like a haunted attraction. It’s uncomfortable but brilliant. By the time you reach the end, you’re willing to believe anything ... Hamill has crafted something truly remarkable, and if you have to sprint through it so that the gaudy demons can’t grab you, that’s intentional.
Mr. Hamill creates a world where it’s hard to know who the good guys are ... The misty border between what is assumed and what is actually true about all creatures—human or not—provides this novel with its most interesting moments ... As intriguing as the premise of Cosmology of Monsters may be, the execution of the story often obstructs the satisfaction that could have been achieved by more consistent development of characters and plot ... The information could have been provided in a less intrusive and more believable manner through the use of a more credible narrative device. It’s a relief when Noah switches to chronicling events as they unfold, but the story itself doesn’t significantly improve. The tale switches between a horror story about monsters possessing his family to a narration of familial love and dysfunction. There are chapters that read more like a young adult coming-of-age tale, but interspersed with weird adult romance and sexuality. Mr. Hamill may want his novel to be all of these things. But that feat is not accomplished. The never-ending, often abrupt shifts in tone do not permit readers to settle into and become enthralled with—or even simply enjoy—the story. There are some very nice passages in Cosmology ... More boldness and cohesion throughout this novel would have made it a far more compelling read.
... a horror tale unafraid to tackle big issues of familial fealty, the architecture of fear, and the metaphysics of love, all while shocking the pants off the reader ... straddles the line between scares and feels with confidence and flair. Every time it feels as though the John Irving-style family drama is going to overwhelm the story, Hamill injects a heavy dose of Stephen King-worthy horror. He entwines these elements with a deft hand, and when his simmering monster yarn dovetails with his tender love story, there's a grotesque emotional logic to it that's jaw-dropping. There's nothing new about comparing the monsters within the monsters without, but Hamill employs flashes of insight and flourishes of poignancy to chillingly portray a family held together by the very things that are tearing it apart ... What's missing, though, is a more critical engagement with the hateful legacy of Lovecraft's oeuvre, an honest conversation between texts that recent novels have undertaken bravely. Fear in itself is a political weapon these days, and the book does succeed in delving into the menace and dread that comes from living in a state of pervasive fright — but it's also a wasted opportunity to take part in the current Lovecraft discourse in a more meaningful way ... a book that haunts in a myriad ways, and its monsters are just as often palpably real as they are dredged from the depths of nightmares. Horrific yet emotionally immersive, A Cosmology of Monsters is equally a cartography of the heart.
... deftly and effectively straddles a number of genres ... a twisted ending that is more Grimm than Disney and leaves the reader haunted long after the last page is turned ... Hamill wears some of his influences on his sleeve. There are homages to Lovecraft, of course, but also to Stephen King. With regard to the latter, he gets the subtle message of King’s early work --- that the true horror in the story isn’t the monster but rather the heartbreak and tragedy found in the everyday visible world that strike unpredictably and without warning. In addition, there are nods to Steven Spielberg, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, as well as passages that bring to mind the artwork of Arthur Rackham ... is all Hamill, who will keep you up all night reading and have you wondering, pondering and checking your windows for weeks, if not longer.
The first few chapters of Shaun Hamill’s debut novel may be slightly concerning to those suffering from H.P. Lovecraft fatigue, an understandable condition given how pervasive Lovecraft’s influence has been on the horror genre for the past, oh, century or so. But stick with it...takes the basic idea of ancient monsters from mind-shattering dimensions to some unique and empathetic places. (Hamill also lightly pokes fun at Lovecraft’s pompous writing style, which is refreshing) ... although the tall, hairy creature with the glowing orange eyes and long black cloak who becomes Noah’s best friend and magical mentor lurks around the margins of the story, the book’s supernatural sequences are crisp and concise, startling blips in the overall rhythm of a family life that’s not exactly ordinary, but still firmly rooted in reality. In this way, the book is an object lesson in truly effective horror storytelling, proving that the best way to make you afraid for a character is to make you care about them first.
When is the last time a horror novel was both scary and charming? A Cosmology of Monsters is that book! ... I really enjoyed this literary horror story, which starts out as a love story (don’t ALL good horror tales?) and grows progressively creepier. The book posits the questions: Who are the real monsters, and why do we love to be scared? Truly an uber-creepy yet delightful homage. I loved it.
This ambitious, grotesque debut novel is a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, so it may not be the easiest horror novel to parse or explain. That said, this is a very scary coming-of-age tale that lives in the same space as Stranger Things, Stand By Me, and Stephen King’s It ... The way Hamill weaves his way between the phantasmagorical elements and Noah’s everyday dramas is nimble in a way reminiscent of King, who practically invented this narrative style ... readers are bound to find themselves shuddering at the novel's lurid denouement ... An accomplished, macabre horror saga and a promising debut from an imaginative new author.
A foreboding mood hangs over the first half of the novel, sucking readers in, but as more is revealed about Noah, his family, and the creatures themselves, the story starts to feel hollow. In addition, the author’s sympathy is light for characters other than Noah. Hamill takes care to introduce female characters with agency, but overwrought descriptions of sex and nudity undercut any message of empowerment. After a promising start, this tale spirals down into incoherence and irrelevance.