This Thing Between Us
by Moreno, Gus

When his wife is killed, Thiago, with politicians all looking to turn her death into a symbol for their own agendas, holes up in a secluded cabin in Colorado where he cannot escape from the evil feeding on his grief and rage, determined to make its way into this world. Original.

Gus Moreno's stories have appeared in Aurealis, PseudoPod, Bluestem Magazine, and the anthology Burnt Tongues. He lives in the suburbs with his wife and dogs, but never think for one second that he's not from Chicago.

Debut author Moreno emphatically plants his flag as an original new voice in cosmic horror, an old subgenre that is trending once again. In cosmic horror there is a pervasive, evil force whose power overwhelms humanity. Here, the nefarious force takes up residence in an Alexa-type device set up inside the Chicago apartment of Mexican American newlyweds Thiago and Vera. Thiago narrates the entire story as if he is telling it to Vera-who is dead at the start of the novel-in a desperate, confessional tone, begging for both her forgiveness and help as his world and sanity spiral out of control. Readers will eagerly follow Thiago and the increasingly weird twists and turns that escalate from unsettlingly haunting to uncomfortably creepy, and ultimately arrive at mind-altering terror. Moving from anti-immigration activists to zombie dogs and openings into another portal, Moreno has melded a thought-provoking novel about mourning with unapologetic horror, much like the very best of twenty-first-century cosmic horror such as The Fisherman by John Langan (2016) or The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (2020). Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A couple's foray into homeownership takes a turn for the terrifying. In Moreno's bone-chilling debut, Vera and Thiago Alvarez assume there are rational explanations for the phenomena plaguing their recently purchased Chicago condominium. That said, the exterminator can't find any vermin to account for the scratching in the walls, and the HVAC technician absolves their air conditioner of blame for the cold spots and nocturnal clangs. When the pair's new Itza smart speaker starts answering unasked questions and placing unsolicited orders for items such as industrial-strength lye and a book on communicating with the dead, they deem it defective; however, a replacement device proves no less willful. The Alvarezes attempt to track down their unit's former occupant in hopes that she can shed some light, but before they can connect with the woman, Vera has a freak accident and dies, sparking a media storm. Unable to cope with his emotions, the attention, or the condo's escalating weirdness, Thiago crushes the Itza with his truck and uses Vera's life insurance to buy a fully furnished cabin near Estes Park, Colorado. His grief chases him west, though, along with a manipulative, malevolent entity determined to gain entrance to this world. Thiago's intimate first-person narration reads like a letter written in hindsight, addressed to a now-dead Vera, and suffused with pain and regret. Moreno makes clever use of structure to maximize dread, opening with Vera's funeral and then doubling back, while references to famous horror novels and films trick readers into thinking they're following a familiar path before the tragic plot veers wildly off-map. Harrowing existential horror that lingers like a nightmare. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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