Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
You can’t have summer reads without some fiction thrown in, so here’s my fiction pick for this post and let’s start with all of the reasons that I just knew I was going to love this book before I even opened it. First, the cover is really cool. It reminds me of a fuzzy indie movie dream sequence, where a 20 something girl looks out the open car window as she drives down an old highway lined with cornfields and bright white washed out skies, her long hair repeatedly whipping in and out of the frame. Except replace the bright sky with a drippy, slow trip, purple hazed, oil slick. Second, the author is the writer, guitarist and vocalist for the band The Mountain Goats (please also check them out if you never have). Lastly, the book takes place in the 1990s in that strange little window of time when VHS tapes were on their way out, soon to make way for more modern devices, that last little moment in time (that I was lucky enough to be a part of) before the internet hit and the world gave way to a whole new type of place, the last bits of mystery and dreams still clinging to unsuspecting people of what was to come. This last reason holds this book together for me. The story is sudden and jumpy, moving from one character story to the next, in a somewhat disjointed fashion much like a spliced together VHS or cassette tape. It is an eerie little tale that spans through strangely overlapping characters that make the timeline a bit hard to follow. I liked the story concept but was expecting it to be more horror than it was, I wanted a cross between children of the corn and a Blair witch/VHS hybrid, but instead the story was much different from that. A farmhouse setting, the days when emergency phones were stuck to roadside street posts, and the story of generations of families, lost but not forgotten.