Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
My review: 4 of 5 stars
Strange and unsettling, but compelling. My first reaction to Universal Harvester was that of nostalgia for the video stores of the 1990’s. My husband worked in one while in college. We used to rent videos by the truckload and gorge over the weekend. The novel soon evolved into a creepy mystery involving the appearance of disconcerting clips in otherwise normal videos. The story was told primarily through flashbacks by a strange narrator and was at times disorienting, but I believe this disorientation was deliberate to keep the reader on edge and off balance. It worked. Even after finishing the novel and having most of the answers to the mystery, I still felt uneasy because I didn’t quite trust the narrator. If you like Stephen King, you may like Universal Harvester. It has that kind of feel although it isn’t quite a horror story. In the end, I’m not sure how to classify it, but it had me under its spell nonetheless. The chapters are short, and the story is fast-paced. What keeps the reader turning the pages is the need to get at some answers. When the answers came, they were provided by the unreliable narrator. So the reader is left wondering still.
Please note: In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received a free advance reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.