Jeremy Robert Johnson is a fantastic new voice in mainstream fiction, but to understand him, you must investigate the scene where he has already been a well-known pillar for over a decade ... His work is most aptly described as a mixture of all these things — thrillers that become bloodbaths, horrors that blend into fantasies, and apocalypses that transcend into high art ... Johnson’s short story collection I described in another review as crackling with 'dirty electricity,' a term used in the book for a particular kind of high, but also perfectly describing Johnson’s focus on the democratic nature of chaos in the world ... The Loop is the kind of book that is best enjoyed when unprepared for the weirdness within ... Johnson’s greatest gift is not his ability to imagine the worst things and present them in pulsing Technicolor — it is the human connection he makes with his characters ... Like the best of Crichton or Benchley, it is a great beach read, but it is infused with the neon blood of a brave new writer with his finger on the racing pulse of our society and everything wrong with it.
... the relationships of our heroes—amongst themselves and with their families—is only one of the things that elevates The Loop from your standard, and in this case well-written, nut-job nightmare ... Lucy feels complicated and real, which only serves to underscore the horror of all the gory, terrible things that are happening all around her. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it was cathartic for me, as a brown person, to see an adolescent version of myself make the best of a hideous situation. It’s nice, too, that The Loop comes out during Hispanic Heritage Month, showcasing a Latina heroine who deserves to become iconic.
There’s something to be said for a story that jams its foot on the accelerator and leaves it there for 300 pages, an engine that runs at 5,000 RPM for the entire length of a narrative, pushing on until it has spent itself completely. That’s the kind of book Jeremy Robert Johnson’s The Loop is: a sprinting, throbbing horror novel with hardly a pause for breath. Complex story patterns and narrative trickery are all well and good, but they might whet even a sophisticated audience’s appetite for something as pure and adrenaline-driven as Mad Max: Fury Road. With his second novel, Jeremy Robert Johnson delivers exactly that ... class issues make The Loop a more complex novel than it appears to be. Johnson’s insight on the menace of privileged white boys of high school age – often dismissed as simply obnoxious – is profound, and it underlies the terror wreaked on the town ... Along with being a fine horror novel in its own right, the book contains an interesting parallel between the fictional biotech experiments and the very real phenomenon of school shootings ... One major flaw in The Loop is the clarity of its plot. Violence multiplies long before the reader has any idea why the town’s teenagers are acting different, and Oracle doesn’t even have a name until over halfway through the book. Johnson seeds clues to the plot in transcripts of the Nightwatch, a conspiracy-mongering podcast that catches on to the dangers in Turner Falls before anyone else does, but how it all hangs together doesn’t become clear until too late in the book. Some aspects never become clear; the actual intended purpose of Oracle remains fuzzy, and the exact nature of the loop of the title is murkier than it ought to be, given that it’s the title ... However, Johnson has traded clarity for a cracking read, a rewarding choice. The Loop is a remarkably propulsive novel, cinematic in the best way, with perfectly tuned tension and excellent character choices. Sometimes the prose leans toward melodrama ... but that, too, is effective. The underlying critiques of small-town class strata and the violent world in which today’s teenagers are forced to grow up do not detract from the novel’s momentum, and make it an unexpectedly rich read. For all its visceral horror and its proper but unhappy ending, The Loop is a headlong, straightforward pleasure.
Johnson has a gift for lightening up dark moments with humor and human connection, and though set over the course of an all-night gore-fest, the well-shaded characters are given plenty of room to breathe; the moments of quiet make the scares all the more powerful. Fans of The Twilight Zone , The X-Files, and Stranger Things will be especially thrilled.