Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Here be me honest musings. . .
Title: break the bodies, haunt the bones
Author: Micah Dean Hicks
Publication Date: Available Now !!! (hardback/e-book)
The totally awesome cover is what led me to find out more about this book and the weird premise is what drew me in. This book takes place in a dying American town called Swine Hill. The only thing stopping the town from total annihilation is a pork processing plant whose workers have little hope and no resources to start anew. Economic troubles would be bad enough but then there be the ghosts. Generations of angry and depressed dead are tied to the town and its residents. If ye aren’t careful yer body can become a host for one or more restless spirits.
This book centers around one such haunted family. Jane has carried her ghost since she was a young girl. Her ghost reads other people’s thoughts and also likes to offer commentary on Jane’s own inner desires and feelings. Jane considers her a friend but it’s a double-edged relationship. Her brother, Henry, harbors the ghost of a tinker and scientist. The two minds together can come up with marvels. However, this ghost sometimes subsumes the boy when a particular problem catches his fancy. The problem gets solved but Henry is completely blank of all memories of the solution and the missing time. Their mother has been consumed by a ghost with an overwhelming need to be loved. This love is so selfish and strong that it literally burns the flesh of her lovers. Her children cannot touch her for fear of being scalded. Their father is a human automaton who left the family, became homeless, and roams the streets. He shuns all company and the ghosts shun him. Neither Jane nor her brother know why. Talk about family dysfunction.
The highlight of this book for me was the complexities of the world building around Swine Hill. Its depressive nature is pervasive and yet it be rich with unusual ideas and imagery. The ghost elements were absolutely fascinating and I loved the diverse effects of spirit inhabitation. There was also an odd but sad robot and animal hybrids. This book led to excellent questions about humanity, economics, brutality, fear, greed, loss, and tenacity. The world felt real and gritty and very unpleasant. And yet the residents continued to hang onto survival even if the war has been lost. Though hope is missing, there is still the desire for comfort at any cost. I honestly wanted better for Jane and Henry. The story couldn’t end well given the rules of the world but I had to know the resolution. And I truly liked what I was given.
I don’t know if I could legitimately recommend this to anyone because it is so unique and weird and gritty. But I admit that I am so very glad that I read this book and I look forward to seeing what else this author has in store. For a debut, it is wonderful. Arrrr!
So lastly . . .
Thank you John Joseph Adams / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!
Goodread’s website has this to say about the novel:
Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms… They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.
Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.
When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.
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