The first of a series of horror novellas published by Cemetery Gates Media and curated by Mother Horror (Sadie Hartmann), Stargazers starts the series with a bang.
When people start acting strangely, military veteran Henry, his health care worker wife Judith, and their four year old daughter Penny, fight to survive in a frightening new world.
Wow! This is a beautiful slice of sci-fi horror that both chilled me and moved me in ways that a book hasn’t done in a while.
The first sign that it’s not business as usual is when people start standing in their gardens at night, staring at the stars. This set up, and the terrifying progression of the stargazers, gave me the same creeping dread that John Wyndham’s short stories and Invasion of the Body Snatchers inspired in me as a child. There is something about a powerful, unknowable alien force stripping away our humanity that is so frightening. To what horrific purpose will they turn their people puppets?
Each chapter is bookended by Internet forum posts giving details about the extent of the phenomenon, and providing speculation on what is going on. This was an excellent way to broaden the experience of the event beyond the reach of Henry and his family, and to cleverly give some necessary plot exposition.
One of the posts about a mother and son actually moved me to tears.
While the scope of this story is global, the focus is very wisely kept tight on one family going through this horror. I loved Henry, Judith and Penny. Henry has PTSD from his time in service, which creates difficulties for his wife and child. The author deftly handles Henry’s scars – both visible and invisible – and how they impact on the family dynamic.
Apart from one event near the end of the book that I thought was a little cliche, this was a perfect novella for me.
There are unanswered questions about the origin of the stargazers that will divide readers, but I liked the ominous threat that swept people up and left them struggling to survive. In my experience, horrible things often come in the night and sweep you up, leaving you powerless, and you only get to ask why this is happening after the event (and it’s too late).
Stargazers is available in paperback and as an ebook from July 5th.
I award Stargazers…
Thank you to Mother Horror and Cemetery Gates Media for providing me with an ARC. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.