So I'd been told to read this for a long time, and because I rebel from the suggestions of others, I responded every time with anything from "I'll check it out... eventually" to "Bite me, sucka." Another Lovecraft-esque recycled horror-fantasy. Lo, I am filled with a mighty scorn, et cetera. Then I actually had time to read books of my own choosing for the first time in several years, and I thought I'd follow through with the list I'd neglected for so long. This one came up near the top.
First things first, this is a less-than-24-hour read. Second things second, it melted my damn face. I am unable, in good conscience, to give it less than the coveted 5 stars.
Trust me, I wanted to give it less. I looked for reasons. I accused it of failing to pick up after itself and being a blatant tease after an expensive first date. I called its mother names, screaming that it was the bastard offspring of bastard offspring. But the truth is that this book did everything I need a book to do. So it's not going to win the Pulitzer, which only makes me think less of literary prizes.
I'm not going to get into the plot, because READ IT. Perhaps the book's greatest strength is its brevity. Gregory never describes a character with more than three sentences, never a location with more than four. Trust me, I went back and counted. The conservation of language resulted in something so horrifically concise that I feel like the writing is part of the puzzle. Unlike other imitators (and I'm looking straight at you, Danielewski,) this truly is bigger on the inside. It's unsettling.
The second strength is the ensemble cast. Some say you can have either characters or plot, but these characters are their own plots. Each one is a story, and the maze goes deeper with each one. They're funny, they're terrifying, they break like real people and they achieve awesomeness each in their own way. There are storylines hidden here that I'm sure I missed.
Suffice it to say, I have not been so impressed by fiction in years. And I didn't want to be, which makes it twice as effective. And yes, I believe I'm going to go on to read Harrison Squared in the next day or so, although I am a little concerned that level of knowing might undo some of the effectiveness of We Are All Completely Fine. I am going to trust that I want to know, and that might get me in trouble, but I will trust all the same.
Daryl Gregory has convinced me to go on into darker water.