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A Cosmology of Monsters

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2019)
Noah Turner sees monsters.

His father saw them—and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates.

His practical mother has caught glimpses of terrors but refuses to believe—too focused on keeping the family from falling apart.

And his eldest sister, the dramatic and vulnerable Sydney, won’t admit to seeing anything but the beckoning glow of the spotlight . . . until it swallows her up.

Noah Turner sees monsters. But, unlike his family, Noah chooses to let them in .

336 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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Shaun Hamill

9 books422 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,569 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,421 reviews77.6k followers
October 18, 2022
Full disclosure: I had a bunch of nifty, gorgeous quotes to use on this review, but I seem to have lost them and already mailed my copy of the book to a friend. While you're reading this review, please pretend you are reading the author's words as I give you a FRIENDS-esque summary.

{Insert quote of the one where Margaret and Harry begin their intensely dark love affair. Also, H.P. Lovecraft.}

Ok, so if you've read the summary of this book, you probably had a visceral reaction to its implication, and either gave a resounding "Definitely not for me!" or an enthusiastic "Hell yeah!" It's a polarizing story, one that worked REALLY well for me, but I can also see it being difficult to swallow for some, or many, to be honest. A Cosmology of Monsters is dark, disturbing, weird, and a bit taboo, but it's also a poetic debut, and an exceptionally well-written tale. There is a mangled beauty to these flawed, suffering characters, and the tragic nature of this story still manages to present the reader with moments of hope and an air of lightness to break up the heavy nature. And, oh friends, is this a heavy story. Obviously you can tell that from the synopsis, the cover, and the genre tags, but as someone who reads a great number of dark novels, I had to put this one down at times and switch it up with other things, but more on that below.

{Insert the one about Noah welcoming in the monster.}

The format of this novel is quite intriguing, and I love how it is linear, but also isn't at the same time. No spoilers here, but we have straightforward narrative, broken up with script pieces that will make sense to the reader towards the end of the story. We follow the Turner family from its inception, meaning the quirky meeting and courtship of the parents, throughout the childhood of our narrator, Noah, and up until the middle-aged adulthood of Margaret and Harry's children. A Cosmology of Monsters really is a character driven tale, and while it does have a handful of violent, traditionally scary moments, it relies less on b-rated gory horror and more on psychological trauma and inner demons. That's not to say there isn't a fantastical element to the story, because there is, but there is so much to be gained by studying the mental health issues that have plagued every member of this family. I like to think of the book as having a dual, allegorical element, which gives the entire narrative a deep, harrowing vibe.

{Insert the one where it features THAT scene. You'll know the one I'm mentioning when you get there.}

Now, for the real reason you're coming to this review. Content warnings seem to be a divisive subject in the reviewing community, and I tend to fall in the middle regarding them. I don't always include them, unless it is not apparent in the synopsis that a disturbing theme is mentioned in detail. There are LOADS of content warning worthy mentions for this book, and I'll include them in a spoiler tag for those who like to go in blind. If you're sensitive to any of the following, you may want to skip this book: <--- I imagine all of these things will either turn you off completely, or have completely sold you on making this your next read.

{Insert quote about the one that deals with the ending, because OMG I'm still disturbed by it.}

Overall? This book touched me in a place I didn't even know existed. I've been so burned out on the commercial, mainstream fiction of 2019, that it was refreshing to find something as unique and memorable as A Cosmology of Monsters. If you can stomach the tough stuff and enjoy dark reads while not minding a bit of the paranormal thrown in, I highly recommend you pick up this slim read. Again, this book won't be for everyone, and you've been warned, so don't come knocking on my door when you're still sleeping with the lights on a week after finishing this grim tale.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
October 30, 2021

oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST HORROR 2019! what will happen?


this is an extraordinary debut novel that comes so damn close to my kind of perfect, and yet another book with a lovecrafty angle that overcomes my antipathy for lovecraft by not adopting his (to me) crappy storytelling shenanigans or his (to any reasonable human) crappy personal views on race&gender&etc. this one’s a complex and delicious blend of literary horror and family tragedy written with the flow and confidence of a much more seasoned author.

i don’t want to go into too much detail, because so much of this book’s appeal lies in its sustained ambiguity, but i will say it’s a beautiful and sympathetic story of a family fractured by the ordinary horrors of mental illness, disease, death, disappearances, emotional shortcomings, secret romantic entanglements, and also monsters. perhaps.

i’m not gonna commit to much more, because for a big chunk of the book, the monster part, while present, is riding along in the story’s backseat, and it’s unclear whether it is ‘real,’ or if it’s more of a symbolic or figurative presence—a sort of fantasy conjured up as an escapist coping mechanism for a young boy’s feelings of loneliness or confusion in a family in which every member is going through some pretty major, life-changing events, unable to share them with the rest of the family because they are all plagued by an inability to connect or communicate in traditional ways, which is established in the very first paragraph of the novel:

I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old. I still keep them all in my bottom desk drawer, held together with a black binder clip. They were among the only things I was allowed to bring with me, and I’ve read through them often the last few months, searching for comfort, wisdom, or even just a hint that I’ve made the right choices for all of us.

Eunice eventually discovered that I was saving her missives and began addressing them to me. In on of my favorites, she writes, “Noah, there is no such thing as a happy ending. There are only good stopping places.”

as a family drama, it is straight-up perfection. all of the characters have nuance and are heartbreakingly real, with such delicate detail-work in their construction, and there are a hundred moments that are pure stunning in their emotional rawness. it’s dark without being grit-lit dark; it’s all very empathy-fanning and relatable even though the specific idiosyncrasies are—one—hopes, not the readers’ own.

the time-loopy structure, the chapters scattered throughout called The Turner Sequence[s], that describe the various characters’ dreamlike experiences in a place called The City, the enigmatic way the more fantastical elements were handled—all of this was shaping up to be one of those books that slay me in that very specific way i find so hard to describe, but which involve a destabilization of the reader, where something is revealed, or where all of the discrete parts coalesce into something unexpected that changes the whole context of the book, where everything pulls back and any expectations or comfort or certainty about what we thought we were reading explodes in a jarring and sense-rocking way.

this one didn’t end up doing that, and the third-act bits were not as glorious as i’d anticipated, but it is still a tremendous achievement. i want to make clear that i do not have a ‘better way’ for this to be written, or how he would have resolved the story into that particular book-feel i was craving, but like a person i wanna make out with—i know it when i see it. it just seemed like it was gonna be that kind of book, it was on the verge of going there, and then it went into some weird sex-stuff instead. which sounds dismissive, i know, and maybe it is. i dunno—i was perfectly happy with the ending and the getting-to-the-ending, but the weird sex-stuff seemed like a stumble in an otherwise very graceful book.

in any case, it’s a remarkable debut, and it would be very good friends/excellent companion-reads with My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 and The Saturday Night Ghost Club. it also pairs well with the netflix version of The Haunting of Hill House, in its outstanding interplay between the deeply sad family story and the horror elements; the fine balance between reality and supernatural. Paul Tremblay and i will come to blows over this, but i love that show deep in my corespace, and it totally does that thing i was trying to describe before. SLAIN!

i am so there for this author’s next book.


i am about 2/3 through and i just need to pause for a minute because this book is TOO GOOD. this is SUCH a karen-y book, and unless he throws it all away in the last hundred or so pages, it will be in my top five books of the year. maybe top three, but i'm going to be optimistic that my next two months' worth of reading will all be of this caliber. okay, back to reading!



come to my blog!
Profile Image for Shaun Hutchinson.
Author 25 books4,596 followers
March 20, 2022
You know what would be really great? If non-queer authors could stop writing queer characters who inevitably kill themselves because they're queer. That would be swell.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
628 reviews4,259 followers
April 20, 2020
“I started collecting my sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old.”

Noah Turner sees monsters. His father saw them - and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates. The rest of the Turner family has experiences with the monsters too, but Noah chooses to let them in...

Are you a fan of Stranger Things? How about weird fiction? Or Lovecraftian stories? Or literary horror? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then you need to pencil the release date for A Cosmology of Monsters into your diaries! (it’s September 17th, FYI)

I don’t always need to care about my characters in order for a horror novel to work - sometimes I just really enjoy a slasher with indiscriminate characters - but when you really care about the outcome, the stakes are raised. The Taylor family were well-developed and incredibly interesting, and I still miss them after having turned the final page. Eunice, in particular, was a standout. I found her story heartbreaking.

I’d put this book in the tame category in terms of horror, it’s not created to terrify you, but there are monsters and murders galore, as well as a menacing dread that builds as you progress through the novel. It also ticks a few Lovecraftian and Stranger Things boxes as we have this inter dimensional city that wants your soul!

Speaking of Lovecraft, all the little nods and references to his work had me fangirling like crazy. Each part has the title of a Lovecraft story! However, you do not need to have read any Lovecraft in order to appreciate this one!

Hamill is one hell of a writer, so beautifully descriptive at times, and I look forward to devouring more of his books!

In summary... GET THIS BOOK! 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68k followers
June 27, 2020
Listen to Your Mother!

Life is a horror story straight out of H.P Lovecraft. Only hopeful delusions prevent us from recognising the terrible reality of those things we have been taught to respect, admire and desire - spouse, children, work, moderate suburban comfort. Only by inducing ourselves to believe that these things are inherently valuable and that they justify our lives can we bear to tolerate the triviality, dissatisfaction, and absence of any real affection.

Yet reality continues to impose itself. Unable to cope with one’s own defects not to mention the continuous rivalry with one’s siblings and parents, the unconscious mind objectifies them as monsters and demons which mean to destroy us - which of course is precisely what reality intends to do. The universe is indeed evil. The prevalence of defective genes, physical illness, and neuroses makes the point obvious even as we temporise and rationalise about them.

Parents only begin to understand this after years of marriage and child-rearing. Whatever the original reasons for pursuing family life, they are inadequate for sustaining it. People change. Experience generates suffering. Dreams of the future are never fulfilled. Life becomes tedious and full of resentment and pretence when it was supposed to be an adventure. And the reality of death becomes more real.

Yet none of this, of course, can be communicated to the children who are doomed to repeat the experience. Children think that the violence and pain and disappointment they experience are aberrations which can be avoided. They’re not. They are inevitable. All children believe in justice and have no concept of economics. This is what makes them vulnerable. They lack the skills to survive in an unjust, commercial world. And they know parents lie in any case.

Particularly apt for pre-marital counselling.
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews422 followers
November 9, 2019
I was skeptical in the beginning. At first the thing scratching at the windows of members of the Turner family seemed more Muppet than monster. But that evolves quickly and once it does, the book takes off and never lets up. It's not scary, it's horrifying. Lovecraft hovers in the increasing atmosphere of dread Hamill evokes. Lovecraft is also woven into the story early because he's part of how father Harry woos future wife Margaret, by lending her his copy of "The Tomb." And then taking her to Spooky World, which alters the direction of their lives.

The creature is part of a race that will get you one way or another once it picks up your scent. What they do to you I won't say. Nate, the youngest child, who isn't even born yet when the scratching begins, hears it and interacts with the creature from a young age. It's an inversion of the classic invisible friend; this creature is real and it's his closely-guarded secret. As he grows up the two grow closer. It takes female form and they make love. (Parents who worry more about their kids being exposed to sex than violence, you've been warned. The violence in "Cosmology of Monsters," is mostly implied, but there's sex, which the kids probably know way more about already than what's in the book.) Meanwhile in the other world, the one we think of as the "real" world, children and teens are disappearing and the Turners lives turn weirder.

The writing is indeed literary, a word that is overused but truly applies here. Hamill's plotting and writing are exceptional, so much it's hard to believe this is his first novel. More, please. The family is one the reader cares about from the beginning and more deeply as the book goes on. The monsters, though shadowy, are believably real. Though there are no jump scares, there's an atmosphere of increasing menace that's palpable. At some point I realized I was smiling while I was reading it, which is exactly what I want from horror or weird fiction or whatever: enjoyment. And the end, which is so often a letdown in horror books, is excellent. Overall, "Cosmology of Monsters" is an original, well-written and entertaining book.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews776 followers
March 2, 2020

This is going to hurt, writing this. Trying to decide how to word my very intense, visceral reactions to this story. This is the kind of review where I loved half and hated half, so it's a 3 star purely to keep it fair.

Writing: ★★★★
Surreal vs Gritty Realism: ★★★★
Enjoyment: ★ 1/2 for the whole

A Cosmology of Monsters is the type of horror novel that doesn't feel like a horror novel until you're halfway through and realizing that what you thought was the scary part....actually wasn't.

I almost feel like I'm doing this novel a disservice by attempting to review it because I wasn't the right audience. Bear with me, and for a more glowing review I highly recommend Chelsea Humphrey's take. Her review made me want to like this so much more than I did, but it just wasn't for me.

Noah is a boy who sees a monster outside of his window. But that's not actually what this story is about. It's also about the life saga of the Turner family in the 1970s-2000s, and their collective experiences with this monster. Some ignore it. Some get intimate (yes, in that way) with it. Some turn to suicide. Some are diagnosed with mental disorders. Some disappear. Some get weirdly cult-ish about it. (Given those phrases, it feels redundant to bring up the triggers for this story but they are numerous.)

All of them find their lives enriched and ruined by its presence.

Told from Noah's precarious point of view as both a semi-omniscient narrator for his pre-birth years and a main character for his life, A Cosmology of Monsters analyzes the everyday horror and not-so-everyday horror. I found the individual scenes extremely gripping and well written, but the overall arc of Noah's Friend, the monster, didn't call to me and at times it seriously irked me. This might be the case of a novel that was just on the wrong side of the knife's edge for my taste—instead of the perfect blend of the everyday literary with the horror, it felt like the wrong blend of both.

I definitely recommend checking this out if you're a hardcore Lovecraft fan—the nods to his work are both in the writing and meta in the text—or if you're willing to dance with a different kind of horror that doesn't rely on blood or ghosts to make it scary.

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
May 15, 2020

I had a feeling, when I started reading this book, that it would become a favourite, and in the end I was not disappointed. I actually had to go back a couple of times during some of the most interesting parts because I was distracted thinking how beautiful the story was. Everything in this book was perfect to me: the plot, the characters, the way the story is told, the romance, the creatures, the final reveals... everything came together just perfectly and I couldn't be more happy on how it turned out in the end.

The character of The Friend is just amazing, Noah's family is made of people whose stories are so tragic and yet so real and believable it almost brought me to tears sometimes. I would like to add more details in this review but I really want to keep it spoiler-free because I want people who still haven't read the book to know just how great it is! I can't believe this is a debut novel! I absolutely can't wait to read more from the author. Bravo!
Profile Image for Char .
1,615 reviews1,465 followers
November 9, 2019
Noah and his family are special, but I'm not so sure that's a good thing! A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS is a unique story. With a great opening line like: "I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old.” how can one NOT get sucked in?

This tale about a family, the haunted house/attractions they've managed and their unique relationships with, (I'll just call it "the other" for the purposes of this review), made for fascinating reading. As a longtime fan of horror, I loved the shout-outs and homages to those who have come before, most especially Lovecraft and King. (Check out the blurb from King on the cover!)

I also enjoyed the character development here, even if I didn't like most of the characters. Almost none of the characters are perfectly good or bad, they are a mix of both, just like in real life. I did, (mostly), root for them anyway, especially Megan because I thought she got a raw deal.

That said, the story fast-forwarded a bit after extensive time was spent on Noah's early years. At first it was a bit jarring, and then I became accustomed to it. Other than that, one other thing bothered me, but I can't get into it without spoiling a few plot points. I'll just say that I wanted to know more about "the other." More being everything, really. I just wanted more.

For a debut novel, this one kept me turning the pages and I think it will be interesting to see how others react to it. For that reason, I'm going to keep my eyes open for other reviews on this unique and intriguing story. In the meantime, I recommend it!

Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/2LCH3Cv

*Thank you to NetGalley for the e-ARC, (in exchange for my honest review), and thanks to THE LINEUP for their giveaway, in which I received a beautiful hard copy with no strings attached. This review is my honest opinion.*
Profile Image for Tracy.
502 reviews17 followers
July 8, 2019
A family struggles after the death of their patriarch who was obsessed with horror stories. In a moment of economic desperation, they decide to reopen the father's haunted house while the youngest child starts to be visited almost every night by a wolf like monster.

This book is reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House and the Meow Wolf exhibit. It explores a family struggling with shared traumas and individual secrets while contending with very real monsters and horrific hidden spaces. Although those are two very awesome things to compare this book to, A Cosmology of Monsters felt underwhelming in comparison to both.

I didn't hate this novel - I read it quickly and was invested in seeing how it would end. It surprised me which is one of the main things I long for when reading or watching horror. But it didn't sit right with me when I finally finished it. I was disappointed by the bland narrator and the sneaking suspicion that most female characters existed just to suffer. . I wish I could just have read this for fun without thinking about these aspects of the story too much, but this is the kind of novel that asks readers to read with a critical lens so it's difficult to not think of these things.

I would suggest Lovecraft Country to readers looking for a similar tone and story without some of the issues I found with this book.

Profile Image for Frank Phillips.
494 reviews245 followers
December 12, 2019
What an incredibly bizarre, original, haunting tale! This story had so many layers to it, it would be hard to classify this as just horror, in my opinion. That reason in itself was why it appealed to me so much. I fell in love with this incredibly flawed, real, family, and found myself cringing when bad happened and routing them on when good things came. I went through a wide range of emotions while reading this as this novel had happy parts and incredibly sad, as well as terrifying parts. I raced through this in just about 24 hours! If anyone is looking for a little bit of a different read with mystery, horror, family drama elements to it, then this will be the read for you. This is most likely the most original book I've read this year. Needless to say, i'm a BIG fan of Hamill's now!!
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
309 reviews458 followers
June 30, 2020
‘’My monster suit always fit better than my regular skin. I was never a guardian, or a hero, but a creator and harvester of fear.’’

It has been quite some time since I’ve read a horror book, but as soon as I came across A Cosmology of Monsters, well immediately the cover caught my eye. The eerie house with a single glowing light, the enormous looming wolf-like creature, even the title - almost poetic and enticing, all worked to capture my attention. Let’s face it, I’m a sucker when it comes to monsters.

I honestly cannot believe this is a debut; Shaun Hamill smoothly and skilfully executes a blend of horror and dark fantasy, he spins a tale which is poignant, yet whimsical, and he captivates his audience with a haunting atmosphere.

Firstly, if we briefly look at the definition of ‘cosmology’ then we see it is the study of ‘the general structure and evolution of the universe.’ Hamill uses this concept as the basis for the narrative of A Cosmology of Monsters; he chronicles the evolution of the Turner family, a seemingly ordinary family, but under the surface one that is pursued by the foreboding presence of monsters.

Our narrator is Noah Turner, the youngest of three siblings, and where our story begins, he is not yet born. Traversing through decades, Noah looks back on his family’s history, from the moment his Lovecraftian fanatic dad, and his bookish mum fall in love, right through to his own adulthood. Using photographs, diary entries, letters, and eventually when his own memories come into play, he intimately chronicles the struggles his family faces. Financial strife, terminal illness, mental illness, sexuality, grief, loneliness - we witness the very real heartbreaking hardships many families experience even today. Yet as I have said, their life is not so ordinary. As the novel progresses it becomes apparent that the Turner family live a life which is often delusory, and very much nightmarish. Monsters afflict them all in different ways, and Noah seems to be the one who is targeted in the most unique way. But the question remains, what is real?

There were many aspects of this book in which I loved, but something that stood out to me was how well fleshed out each character was. Throughout the novel we see the Turner family deteriorate in many ways, his mother increasingly becomes distant and cold, his oldest sister, Sydney, becomes wayward, and his other sister, Eunice, struggles under the weight of her mental illness. Then there was Noah’s relationship with the monster he affectionately calls ’My Friend’. I will say very little about this relationship, but it is one that is quite uncanny yet moving. Hamill has a fantastic way of developing these broken characters, I felt my heart strings being pulled for each of them. It is not all doom and gloom though, there are moments of happiness, moments in which any family treasures, so by the end, although there were tears, I very much appreciated the bittersweetness of it all.

‘‘Around town, children dropped their toys and stopped their games as the beacon entered their field of vision and announced itself, a signal from the spirit world that All Hallows’ Eve had begun. The streets would soon be awash in dark magic and the world beyond the world would show its face.’’

If you’re not a big fan of gore and violence; you know those slasher type scenes which are often associated with the horror genre - then fear not, as I would say rather than outright horror this is a novel which revels in the macabre. Hamill gives tribute to classic horror elements; ones you would find in any horror movie set in the 1980’s - which is clearly deliberate as a large proportion of the book is set within that era. For example there is a deep obsession with haunted house attractions, a monster with yellow eyes, scratches upon a window, a sense of being watched, a house suddenly plunged into darkness, an unexplained open window. Silence. Scratching. Thumps. Deep growls. Hamill balances these surreal scenes with real life horror well, and builds tension, a sense of dread.

Lastly, going back to the definition of ‘cosmology’, Hamill also explores the origins and evolution of the horror genre itself. There are clear nods to the classic horror author H. P. Lovecraft’s work, which I actually haven’t read but I’m told each chapter heading is a title of a story by Lovecraft. I found there were influences of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and Hamill’s characters are similar to ones you could find in any Stephen King novel. Then in the second half there is a clear Stranger Things vibe, with a malevolent presence hanging over a close-knit town. I love that Hamill celebrates writers and creators who are prolific in this genre.

It may sound like a lot, but in my opinion, it makes A Cosmology of Monsters rich and delightful to read. Shaun Hamill has certainly made an exciting entrance into the horror and dark fantasy scene, and I look forward to future books by him.

‘’We can’t make new happiness past a certain point, but we can linger in past joy forever, perfectly captured with the rememberer’s eye.’’

ARC provided by Titan Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy. A Cosmology of Monsters is out today and can order your copy here; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cosmology-Mo...
Profile Image for Out of the Bex.
232 reviews122 followers
July 2, 2019

I was roped in by the first paragraph and the description, but my hopes for a great story were not met by the end.

Some sections of this book are very well-written. Some were more mediocre. Sadly the balance tipped more toward mediocrity when as a whole I began to ask two questions: where is this going? and when will it end?

Something is wrong when a reader too often questions the length of the novel and continuously wonders how much is left. I almost DNF'd this, but the occasional bit of intrigue would rope me back in. I felt like pulled taffy by the end.

This book is a sort of love letter to Lovecraft. If you're interested in that this book may be a better experience for you. For me, however, I was left wanting.

Verdict: Skip It.

Disclosure: My review copy of this book was gifted for free by the publisher. This is no way impacts my review. All reviews are 100% honest.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,311 reviews658 followers
October 23, 2019
I listened to Amazon’s audible performance of “The Cosmology of Monsters” by Shaun Hamill narrated by Sean Patrick Hopkins. Hopkins does a fabulous job in reading the story. I’m learning that narrators can make or break a story, and he does a great job.

I chose this story because in the press for it, Stephen King writes “If John Irving ever wrote a horror novel, it would be something like this.” Well, I’m a huge Irving fan and I haven’t read a horror novel in a long while, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

In the beginning, it is Irving-esque. It starts off with Noah Turner, unborn at the beginning, telling the story of how his parents met and started a family. Noah’s father is obsessed with all things dark and creepy and somehow captures the attention of Noah’s practical mother.

Another Irving-esque piece is that Noah’s oldest sister mysteriously disappears, and this haunts the family.

OK, so the horror part…I’m still not a fan of the genre. Noah has a “monster” friend and it gets a bit creepy and strange for me. Add to that, the audio has strange music in an attempt to further the creepiness of the story. I wouldn’t call it horror and the creepiness aren’t the sort of creepiness that I enjoy. It didn’t work for me. But again, I’m not a fan of the horror genre, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

The narrator kept my attention, but I wasn’t a big fan of the story.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,859 reviews473 followers
October 3, 2019
I love it when a debut novel catches me completely by surprise. A Cosmology of Monsters is creative, engrossing and just plain entertaining. It's a mash-up of monster horror, coming-of-age and family saga with a splash of strange fantasy and fate. The Turner family's story spans decades and is told by the youngest child, Noah. His family is plagued by monsters....both real and imagined.

I don't want to give away too much and ruin any part of the story, so I'm not going to say much about the plot or even the structure/POV of this novel. It all works together to bring the story full circle. I can say that this story completely sucked me in. I was up reading until the wee hours because I wanted to finish. Very entertaining read!! And very well-written. The story was something new....and it's well told. Nice mix of creepy and emotional.

I totally did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I expected a run-of-the-mill monster sort of story. But this book is so much more. Totally surprised me! Loved it!

I'm definitely looking forward to more by this author. I like his style.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Knopf-Doubleday via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Profile Image for Ashley.
636 reviews
October 16, 2019
I missed the horror in this novel - unless it was the 16 year old boy having sex with a monster? That was disturbing....
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Amber J.
868 reviews54 followers
September 24, 2020
I try to express only my most honest opinion in a spoiler-free way. Unfortunately, there is still always a risk of slight spoilers despite my best efforts. If you feel something in my review is a spoiler please let me know. Thank you.

Noah's family has been haunted by something. Starting with his grandmother, then his parents, his two sisters and now him. At just 7 years old he comes face to face with the monster. But he doesn't feel fear. He finds in this monster a friend and a companion for years. Yet his family still seems cursed. Like something is still haunting them.

~Plot twists
~The characters
~Some romance
~Steady pacing

~Could have been scarier
~Some more romance would have been good
~Would have liked to know more Noah at the very end

I really enjoyed this book. It's supposed to be a horror, and while I can see why, it isn't very scary. But it is such an original take on a monster story. A lot of the story seemed like it should have felt slow but it really didn't. Because even though nothing much happened, it was written in a way that kept and held your interest. Always giving just enough till the big ending. The character where interesting and real feeling. I'll be keeping on eye on this author.
Profile Image for Crime by the Book.
192 reviews1,594 followers
June 9, 2019
I won’t be reviewing this one because it’s one of my work books - but suffice it to say I loved this read & am honored to be working on it!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,831 reviews1,862 followers
September 9, 2019
I’ve maybe read five horror novels my whole life, the genre is just slightly out of my comfort zone but when I saw high praise from two of my most trusted reviewers (Chelsea and Abby) I knew I had to give it a shot. And I’ve once again learned why it’s so important to step out of my comfort zone occasionally because this one was really good!

While this is definitely a horror novel it’s also not your typical gory, over the top classic horror novel, it’s way deeper and more sophisticated than I expected. Literary horror would be an apt description, there was a quiet beauty to the authors writing even in the midst of such a dark and disturbing tale. I’m not gonna lie, this one is weird you guys, there’s a few moments where I went, wait, WHAT?! But I loved the weirdness and so appreciated that I was reading something wholly unique and like nothing else I’ve read before. It’s beyond dark too and deals with some disturbing stuff but again, there’s something beautiful about the way the author handles deep issues. The structure was also fantastic, there are seven different sections and there’s leaps of years sometimes which really propelled the plot forward at a rapid pace. I really don’t want to say too much more because this was so unique and I went in blind and feel like that’s the best way, but I’ll close by saying that if you like dark thriller try this, it’s a standout, for sure and is unlike much of what is on the market today.

The Cosmology of Monsters in three words: Harrowing, Unique and Dark
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,740 reviews750 followers
April 15, 2020
I had high expectations for this book and they were completely blown out of the water and smashed to smithereens. In fact, it just might be the best damn book I’ve read all year! And that’s saying something because I’ve read 80 or so books this year and this one is just outstanding and the star amongst them all. It instantly sunk its claws into me right from the very first page, I just couldn’t get enough of this story. It’s weird and dark and creepy and has monsters and horror galore and I just absolutely adored and revelled in every single second of it. The Lovecraft references are just the cherry on the most delicious sundae I’ve ever had. Do yourself a favour, drop everything and devour this book!
Profile Image for Sandra Uv.
1,023 reviews234 followers
September 8, 2020

“Los seres humanos somos criaturas pequeñas e insignificantes arrojados a un universo enorme y aterrador.”

El relato del monstruo es la primera novela del autor y se ha desenvuelto bastante bien en un género tan crítico como es el terror. Me esperaba más pero lo que he leído me ha gustado también y lo he disfrutado.

-Reseña completa: http://addicionaloslibros.blogspot.co...
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,209 reviews222 followers
November 4, 2020
Noah, there's no such thing as a happy ending. The songs, books, and movies with "happy endings" all stop at the moment of triumph. They don't tell the whole story. Only the old tragedies tell the truth. Beowulf triumphs over Grendel and his mother, only to fall fighting a dragon. Gilgamesh loses his best friend. Achilles , too. Everyone dies in Hamlet. This is the whole truth.

A Cosmology of Monsters had me at the start - fully wrapped up in the story of Margaret and Harry, rooting for them; then came the first rug pull, and it was all a bit downhill from there, really.

It's hard to go into what didn't work for me without getting spoilery, so I'll make an effort to be vague. That three star rating is more an average of really loving some parts and hating others, than a flatline "fine" throughout. Noah's family and their intersecting path with the monsters hinted at in the blurb is one of the best parts - there's some truly creepy moments, but it's all done in a way that could so easily be explained rationally if the author so chose. And should it all turn out to be rational, there's a very, very well told family story at the heart; each member easy to sympathise with even as they clashed. Though should the supernatural be true, the glimpses of the cyclopean horror that lay beyond was wonderful - tantalising, creepy, truly terrifying in that wonderfully indifferent cosmic horror way.

So it wasn't the story itself I didn't like, but the feeling it came with, the way it was portrayed. There's valid reasons for it, but it's just not where I like my reading time to lead me - thank you, but for the truly grim and grind-me-into-the-dust-with-the-repetitive-monotony-of-an-uncaring-universe feeling, there's plenty of reality to be had. For me, if things are going to get this dark, there has to be a balance. Not every reader needs that, and not every reader will see this story as even being that unrelentingly grim, and there's plenty of good reviews to prove that.
Profile Image for Kelly.
808 reviews32 followers
September 17, 2019
This novel worked for me in every possible way. It’s best categorized as literary horror with many ties to Lovecraft. A Cosmology Of Monsters is the story of a family obsessed. It covers many dark and disturbing areas. I could list all the content warnings here, but I don’t want to spoil the story. I will say that at the most distressing moments something beautiful would also emerge. I have been flipping back over this book since I read it. It deserves a reread in the future for sure.

Thanks to Pantheon Books for the copy.
Profile Image for Aimee.
191 reviews18 followers
September 25, 2019
DNF....a promising start led to me plodding along by the halfway mark. Reads like a mediocre "House of Leaves" with a hint of David Wong. A bunch of unlikable characters and a monster that seems like it was Jim Henson's worst nightmare
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,586 reviews1,984 followers
April 23, 2019
This book has a lot of potential, there are stretches of it I really enjoyed. I think it will appeal to most fans of mainstream Horror. The hooks are quite intriguing and the central "monster" is an impressive balancing act of terrifying and tender. Definitely not a traditional haunted house novel or even a haunted family novel. There is an ambitious structure and plot and plenty of homages to Lovecraft rooted in a story of a family's obsession.

For me this didn't live up to the potential, though the issues I had with it are pretty standard for Horror Written By White Men. Hamill has some strong and imaginative ideas, but the character development and plot didn't always live up to those ideas. I will be looking to see what he does next, though.

Note: Personally, I have had more than my fill of Lovecraft homages and I think THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM should have been the official final nail in that coffin, but I know there are still a lot of fans out there.
Profile Image for Mel.
116 reviews90 followers
October 29, 2019
My mother divorced an abusive husband and gave up the child support for survival...a solid enough reason, but with 2 small children to support by herself, and babysitters being pricey to a waitress/aspiring actress, to assume that I was one step removed from a feral child wouldn't be a stretch. This is not meant to be a therapy session, but rather the etiology of one of my guiltiest of pleasures.
At a very young age, I was in charge of my little brother -- he was 4, I was 5. On Saturdays, our babysitters were Dodger stadium, where you could watch baseball all day and get a bag of peanuts (breakfast and lunch), for well--peanuts, and movie theaters where the feature film played on a continuous loop and a package of Charms candies was less than a quarter. Sitting for 8 hrs. without a parent, somehow we escaped the fate of our photographs ending up on milk cartons. We sat physically undisturbed (but not mentally) on our booster seats through multiple showings of movies like The Longest Day, Taras Bulba, to The Parent Trap, 101 Dalmations. Depending on where we were living at the time, there were the lesser theaters and the lesser movies, the Peter Lorre and Vincent Price b&w horror films. As a child weaned on cult classics such as the Italian horror film Black Sunday, aka The Mask of Satan, I developed a good sense of psychological distance with monsters. I saw them all once, and afterward only through little sticky fingers fanned over my eyes -- BUT, I saw them all defeated.
Dare I say that horror is sometimes... discomforting fun? My blood pressure doesn't rise, my amygdala doesn't scream, "Clown!"" and sometimes I think I smell cotton candy while reading Stephen King.
All the anxieties I developed as a child could be quieted knowing that even the most unimaginable horror could be conquered because this was an orderly and hospitable world where someone watched over us. I don't know whether it was when Bambi's mother got shot and *actually* died, or when I saw Dean Stockwell invoking Yog-Sothoth in the 1970 film The Dunwich Horror that the uneasy thought of a malignant cosmos where there are powerful and indifferent creatures that don't give a spit for puny mankind took root in my head.

I never owned a Cthulu T-shirt, or read a lot of Lovecraft. It felt a bit too Goth for me, or too trippy. Drawing on the *celestial tapestry of cosmic horror* that is Lovecraft's canon, A Cosmology of Monsters has me thinking about Lovecraft's writing again. Hamill tells a perfectly normal love story of a privileged young woman and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and a life that spirals down the rabbit hole. Without going into a plot that is constructed to be revealed--necessary to be absorbed piece upon piece--the mechanism (or rabbit hole) is clever. On the all-consuming level of Richard Dreyfuss's character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Turner family father becomes obsessed with building a haunted house. The novel has an atmospheric charge that feels like a carnival ride through the unknown, and is constructed similarly. Reality blurs, delighted screams take on an uncertain quality, and the fun fades to the terror of the unknown becoming known.

Without giving away the events that set this story in motion, my first thoughts were how mental disorders are misunderstood and can be terrifying. What role, in addition to physical illnesses, could psychic or sensory disturbances be playing in the story? Deeply disturbing events, abuse, neglect, can wear down our resiliency and even change our biology. I thought of the possibility. In the traditional sense of the review, the characters are beautifully developed. To the reader, they're development is experienced more as a series of alterations. They feel organic, confusing the line of distinction; they seem to grow with the darkest of social maladies twisting about them like distorted spines.
Most psychiatric disorders are highly heritable; the estimated heritability for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism (80% or higher) is much higher than that of diseases like breast cancer and Parkinson disease. Having a close family member affected by a mental illness is the largest known risk factor, to date.
"On the edge of madness"...that is a comforting thought to hold up to the writings of Lovecraft. Hamill seems to map that area alarmingly well in this worthwhile debut.
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,137 reviews235 followers
June 28, 2020
This book is a difficult one for me to review. It’s been on my radar for nearly a year and I loved the writing style and how well I felt I knew many of the characters, but it also had some problematic moments for me.

I loved hearing all about the history of this family, tragedy and all. I liked getting a feel for the dynamics between its members and the ways they individually coped with the pain that they’d experienced. The more I learned about their complexities as individuals and as a whole, the more I wanted to delve deeper. The unlikeable parts of certain characters made them even more real to me.
“How often do I get a chance to live out a true-life nightmare?”
I couldn’t get enough information about the Tomb and The Wandering Dark. I could easily visualise each room and I was eager to experience them for myself. I was even plotting new rooms that I could add to those the family had created and wondered how I could get involved behind the scenes to bring the scares to life.


I even loved it when the monster was introduced. I love monster stories so I was looking forward to getting to know this one but certain aspects of the monster’s behaviour didn’t work for me at all. Now, this is where my review becomes a spoilery rant, so you may want to skip the four paragraphs hidden in the spoiler section. Sorry, my rants get kinda wordy.

“It’s seen us. It has our scent.”
While I don’t generally have a problem with endings where the bows aren’t all tied, I did want to know more about the City and the history of the monsters. I was fine with not knowing exactly what was next for some of the human characters, although I could see the way the story resolved for Noah a mile off.

Loss, grief and the experiences that haunt us are central to this book. In exploring those through Noah’s story, the horror in part becomes about the parts of yourself that you hide and those that feed on your pain. I didn’t have to work at all to get into this book and the characters became real almost immediately. It wasn’t the horror I was expecting but I was sucked in and am interested in reading more books by this author.
“Noah, there is no such thing as a happy ending. There are only good stopping places.”
Content warnings include .

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com
Profile Image for Blair.
1,744 reviews4,170 followers
September 19, 2019
(3.5) A Cosmology of Monsters is the story of the Turner family, narrated across decades by youngest son Noah Turner. He first pieces together the story of his parents' marriage before moving on to memories of his older sisters, Sydney and Eunice, and his own childhood. The Turners are dogged by tragedy – several members of the family disappear without a trace – and, according to Noah's account, they are also stalked by monsters. This 'relationship', too, is complicated. As a boy, Noah is visited by a creature he christens 'My Friend'; it teaches him to fly and helps him in times of need. But he also suspects the monster and its kind may be the reason children keep going missing in the Turners' hometown.

The first half of the book maintains a close focus on the Turner family. It's a careful, authentic portrait of three generations, with the weirdness confined to the margins: flitting past windows, lurking in dark corners. When Noah reaches his late teens, however, the plot takes a sharp turn into fantasy. This doesn't work quite as well. I'm being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers, but what could be an interesting angle on the monster aspect is rendered ineffective by a rather eyeroll-inducing development. Also, the realism of the family scenes arguably acts to undermine the fantasy: it seemed (to me) there should be some ambiguity, some sense that Noah might be making it up or creating his own allegory. But it's all played straight.

Not necessarily my favourite sort of horror, but a very enjoyable read, boosted by great writing and characterisation.

I received an advance review copy of A Cosmology of Monsters from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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Profile Image for disco.
560 reviews221 followers
November 25, 2020
I don't reject the choices I've made, or the cost. It's not so surprising, I guess. My monster suit always fit better than my regular skin. I was never a guardian, or a hero, but a creator and harvester of fear.
Profile Image for Audra (ouija.reads).
738 reviews250 followers
October 15, 2019
How can you not be interested in a book with a Lovecraftian, monster-y cover?? While paying homage to other horror authors and tropes, it really is its own story entirely, and it doesn’t fit in any specific box. I’d define it as a family drama with a splash of supernatural adventure tale.

There is a lot I really enjoyed about this book. I loved how the story is told from Noah’s perspective. He starts with how his parents met, which is my favorite part of the whole book. It was just fun: who takes a girl on a second date to a haunted house? I want to be that girl!

The story moves on and the family business becomes creating haunted houses for the month of October. I loved the descriptions of the houses; I would totally go their attraction. But it isn’t enough that they create a spooky attraction, Noah starts seeing a monster, an actual monster outside his window every night.

The rest of the story is Noah’s—the divide between the real world and the one with monsters, the struggles of his family and the family business, and trying to find a normal life. It is quite a sad tale, and I was left thinking about what the monsters represent and who they were.

While I loved the set-up of the story, it goes off in a direction that I didn’t find as interesting as the premise led me to believe. There is so much potential to have a unique story that dances the line between the real and the fantastical, but it just didn’t excite me that much. I wished it went deeper.

My thanks to Pantheon for my copy of this one to read and review.
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