American Elsewhere would sit between 3 and 4 stars if I could rate it accordingly. It’s a solid horror story with a science fiction veneer that could be glibly described as a pan-dimensional family fight come to Earth. It’s an entertaining read, with a strong Cthulhu vibe, though it’s not specifically set in that mythos.
The primary strength of the story comes from its protagonist, the ex-cop Mona Bright, whose past turns out to be way more significant than she could have ever imagined. Mona is tough, resourceful, intelligent and yet has her share of flaws and vulnerabilities, plus a mouth that would make a longshoreman blush. While she doesn’t always make the best choice, it never feels like she takes any action to simply drive the plot forward. It’s refreshing in a genre where all too often people must do really dumb things to keep the story rolling.
On the downside, the novel feels longer than it needs to be, with digressions, exposition and perhaps too many flashbacks weighing it down. The writing is always solid and engaging–though at times the author’s voice intrudes a tad more than I’d prefer–but there is definitely room to tighten things up.
Still, if you’re looking for a story about the perfect American small town and how it’s a front for horrible beings with horrible plans, American Elsewhere will satisfy. Recommended.