Friday, August 11, 2017

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

The author of Wolf in White Van is back with another creeping, psychological novel.  Jeremy Heldt is a post-high school graduate working in the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa in the late 1990s. He knows his life is far from glamourous.  It’s just him and his dad since his mom passed away in a car accident six years ago.  He knows he should probably enroll in some classes at the local community college or at least look for a full-time job now that he’s out of school.   Things take an unusual turn when Stephanie Parsons returns a copy of a video and says “there’s something on this one.”  Jeremy forgets about it until the next day when another customer complains about a second tape being “taped over.”  After taking the second tape home to watch it, he decides it’s time to tell his boss, Sarah Jane about the strange tapes. She too takes one of the videos home and then forgets about it for weeks.  But once she watches it, she sees a familiar farm house that leads her to seek out the creator of the films. Stephanie and Jeremy begin their own investigations and the strange videos worm their way into each of their lives.

 John Darnielle claims that he is a man who loves loose ends.  This is true in that there are no nice neat answers in this book.  But the writing creates general feelings of unease and a drowning sense of memory to take the reader down paths of the past.  To a girl whose mother walked away when she five.  To a cultish church with vagrant followers.  To an old farmhouse where unsettling things were recorded and then expertly spliced into rental videos and then forgotten. Darnielle proves yet again that some of the creepiest stories aren’t really horrible at all.  They may only be vaguely menacing.  And that may be enough to make a book stick with you for a very long time. Check out Universal Harvester from the library today.