Universal Harvester

Universal Harvester

Book - 2017
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Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. Its a small town in the center of the statethe first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. Its good enough for Jeremy: its a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck. But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targetsan old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the storeshe has an odd complaint: {28}Theres something on it,
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780374282103
0374282102
9780374714024
Branch Call Number: FIC Darnielle, J 2017
Characteristics: 214 pages ; 22 cm

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JCLIanH Jun 06, 2018

Haunting, beautiful, heartbreaking, deeply moving, basically all the things you have come to know and love and expect from a Mountain Goats record transferred into literature. John Darnielle's greatest gift is making these small, quotidian moments and places seem like the only moments ever experienced and the only places in the universe. There's so much care, and so much poetry put into his characters and the places they inhabit. There is real darkness, sure, but never so much that the light can't be let in when it needs to.

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Girl_As_Hell
May 24, 2018

This is like any great Mountain Goats song: a strong beginning of haunting & unforgettable lyrics, then just putters out instead of ending. It's fine that isn't a horror read, but it's a middling attempt to break your heart. If you want sad, angry, beautiful, provincial stories of family relationships and loss, you're better off with "Malagash" by Joey Comeau, or Miriam Toew's "A Complicated Kindness".

m
MS_Varnado
Jan 02, 2018

An all-time favorite of mine, though I can understand it isn't going to appeal to everyone. The highlight is definitely the language and atmosphere of the work, which testifies to the author's history as a lyricist. This work plays with and subverts the tropes of puzzle-box horror stories, and in doing so may leave genre fans disappointed, but it certainly opens up onto interesting ruminations in the process. The setting is a richly evoked rural Iowa, beginning at a local VHS rental store in the 1990's, and the story is very aware of the awkward intersection between historical and contemporary that its subject material occupies, while also exploring both sides of this temporal divide in later acts as if seeking some impossible sense of closure.

If the structure of Darnielle's previous novel, Wolf in White Van, can be thought of as inverted (with one narrative thread told chronologically, the other in reverse), then Universal Harvester can be thought of as a spiral, or a widening gyre, rending itself apart as the work progresses. While I was left perplexed after an initial reading, I will say that this work has amply rewarded multiple revisitations as few others have, and for that reason I highly recommend it, especially to fans of weird fiction.

l
lukasevansherman
Nov 10, 2017

The subject heading "horror fiction" is misleading. The second novel from Mountain Goats singer/songwriter John Darnielle is fitfully engaging, but not as satisfying as his debut, "Wolf in White Van." It opens in a sleepy, rural Iowa town where strange scenes start showing up on video cassettes turned into the local rental shop. I was really hooked by the strange atmosphere and small town setting of the early chapters, but Darnielle didn't seem to know where to go with his plot and characters, and the second half is a bit erratic and not as strong. Still, if you liked his other book or you like his songwriting, there's enough in here to make it worth picking up.

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MontMoroc
Oct 20, 2017

Apparently this was marketed as a horror novel? Luckily I didn't know that so I was able to experience Darnielle's clear prose unencumbered by that expectation. Sure, there are creepy bits here and there, but mostly it's an examination of loss and how people deal with it. There are a few annoying MacGuffins sprinkled throughout that muddy some of the "mystery" you'll be tempted to unravel. I recommend just enjoying the emotion the text can bring to the surface and not waste your time trying to tie everything up in a tidy bow by the end of the book.

c
COURIER3
Aug 28, 2017

Not worthy of comment.

OLATHEAllisonB Jul 06, 2017

Mysterious and murky, this novel attempts to be profound about loss and grief, with some success. Darnielle maintains a bleak and haunting tone throughout the setting of small-town Iowa, and the mystery running as a common thread between the chapters has a surprising conclusion. At times, though, the language comes across as pretentious, rambling on without saying anything important. An occasionally interesting read, but not a memorable one.

CRRL_MegB Jun 22, 2017

Awesome read. Universal Harvester is a serious homage to David Lynch mysteries such as the newly revived Twin Peaks on the Showtime network, classic horror movies such as The Ring and David Cronenberg's Videodrome.

s
ShannonFell
May 30, 2017

It is so hard to write a review about this book. It wasn't satisfying, memorable, or worthy of a recommendation.

SareM91 May 09, 2017

A slow-paced book about loss and longing. It says the genre is horror but it is not horror! So don't go into this thinking it's horror because you will be very disappointed.

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