Book Review – Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Summary

Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut.

UniversalHarvester

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle is a 2017 mystery/fiction novel set in the late 1990s. The story follows Jeremy, a man in his early twenties who works at his local Video Hut, a dead-end job he finds palatable because it gets him out of the house and makes his daily life predictable. He lives with his father; his mother having died six years previously in a car wreck. His daily monotony is interrupted when he starts to notice a trend of people complaining about “something else” being on the tapes they’ve rented. Troubling, homemade footage not a part of the movie. It’s a premise that I found quite tantalizing, as I’m sure many others have. An effectively simple concept that promises to unsettle, yet you feel drawn in. Despite how this sounds, however, this book is not a horror story.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – 2018/01/10

www_wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

UniversalHarvesterI’m about three quarters of the way through Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. It’s a lot more of a slow burn than I was expecting, the nature of these strange tapes still left nebulous to the reader at this point. It’s a lot more focused on people’s lives, their roots, processing grief, and trying to figure out their place in the world. It’s amusing to me to think that this novel is essentially an internet “creepypasta” turned into literature, where normally a story like this would be entirely fixated on the the creepy premise, this novel is building out its people and their world carefully. Where this falls in my esteem will ultimately have to do with its payoff.

Recently Finished

Nothing yet, but I expect to have Universal Harvester done any day now.

Reading Next

45MasterCharactersAs a supplemental read I think I’m going to finally start reading 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt soon. It’s a book I picked up for reference a while ago, but with my growing drive to actually get started on a book I’ve been building up in my head for years now, I want to use more of the tools available to me to help me make it as good as it can be. Other than that, I will probably start Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller as my next novel, as I’ve got a lot of those books that I want to get through this year.

WWW Wednesday – 2018/01/03

www_wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

I’ve given myself a bit of a break from reading for the first week of January, so I’m not currently in the middle of anything. I just wanted some time to reflect and not worry about getting through anything.

Recently Finished

StarshipTroopersCoverJust in nick of time, on New Year’s Eve, I finished reading Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, making it my final book of 2017. I was surprised with just how much the plot points of this novel were mirrored in the better-known 1997 film, considering how different they are. It takes a significantly different approach to its world and the Bug War. The war itself is rather incidental to the plot, strangely enough. I will have a review of it posted after my brief repose.

HellboyIntoTheSilentSeaI also read Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea by Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, and Dave Stewart. It was an interesting little nautical tale, set during the events of the sixth volume Strange Places. Hellboy finds himself captured on a ship seemingly out of the past, which voyages in search of a serpent that will supposedly grant great knowledge. It was brief story, good but unremarkable compared to other Hellboy tales. I particularly liked the art, which had an especially ghostly quality to it. I’m curious what inspired this book, since it was a full 11 years after Strange Places.

Reading Next

UniversalHarvesterI may not be reading anything at the moment, but I’ve already set my sights on my first novel for 2018, which I plan to start this weekend. It shall be Universal Harvester by John Darnielle, which follows a young man working in a video store in the late 1990s who begins to receive complaints from customers that certain tapes they’ve rented included unsettling footage not part of the movie. I first heard about this book from a Night Vale Presents podcast and I’m eager to finally dig into it.