Pandemics and pubescent rage run amok in these horror books
|Toronto Star 15 Mar 2019 at 04:25|
Mouthful of Birds, by Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell), Riverhead Books, 230 pages, $35 (Riverhead Books)
The Homecoming, by Andrew Pyper, Simon and Schuster, 368 pages, $24.99 (Simon and Schuster)
In a concrete tower deep in the Michigan woods, 24 boys live a bizarrely regimented existence under the care of their gentle captors. The mastermind behind this utopian education experiment, which aims to create a cohort of geniuses undisturbed by the wiles of the outside world and the opposite gender, is known to the boys as D.A.D (though G.O.D. might be closer to the mark). Unknown to the boys, an identical tower three miles away houses a cohort of girls undergoing the same indoctrination. It’s only a matter of time before the children — pubescent, curious, rebellious — push at their constrictive boundaries, unleashing a torrent of pent-up rage. As the novel accelerates to its shocking conclusion, Josh Malerman (Bird Box) deftly moves between several points of view, all of which — with the exception of a Charles Bukowski-esque children’s author, who belongs in a different novel — ring true. The child characters are especially good, their naivety and yearning for meaning a touching counterpoint to their captors’ fanaticism and moral depravity.
By Helen MarshallRandom House, 290 pages, $24.95 paper
Helen Marshall explores the latent wisdom and adaptability of the young in a gentler but no less visionary fashion in her debut novel, The Migration. In a near-future ravaged by climate change, 17-year-old Sophie Perella is uprooted from her Toronto home when her younger sister is afflicted by a global pandemic that strikes only children and teenagers. Sophie’s mother relocates the family to the U.K. to receive experimental treatments for her daughter and to be near her sister, an expert in the history of epidemics. There, amidst the dreamy Gothic spires of Oxford, Sophie, with the help of her aunt and her new friends, uncovers the truth about the pandemic and what it means to her sister’s ultimate fate. Marshall crafts a moving and genuinely original metaphor for the possibilities and perils of human transformation while combining elements of dystopian and coming-of-age fiction tropes.