Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Commune With a God in Daryl Gregory’s Revelator

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Confession: I was sleeping on this book. Revelator by Daryl Gregory was first released in August of 2021. And I’ve seen it around a few times. I didn’t really know what it was until a few days before I was contacted regarding the paperback release. One of my friends was trying to convince another one to finally read it. So when I had the chance to read it? I jumped—and I’m so glad I did. The paperback is gorgeous and hits shelves February 27th from Penguin Random House. If you have also been sleeping on this one, you should pick it up. 

So, this book. I don’t even know where to begin to talk about this. It’s southern gothic, historical, and steeped in moonshine. It is also deeply in the realm of religious horror. Stella and her family have… a special relationship with god. Or a god, rather. The God in the Mountain. But it’s the 1930s—and the 1940s, multiple timelines, here—so their community is very much a Christian one. It’s just that, for the Birch women (Stella being one), there are more gospels to be uncovered. They’re the gospels given to them: The Revelators.

I want to touch on an aspect of being a Revelator that, to me, really speaks to the essence of this book. And that is the act of communion. And don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an argument on transubstantiation. And if you don’t know what that is, congratulations on not growing up between the Catholics and the Baptists. No, what communion here is, it’s a sharing of information. It is the passing of an essence of self from the god to the revelator. Fully embodying feelings and thoughts that are not your own. It is reading this book.

Revelator by Darryl Gregory
Revelator by Darryl Gregory

Some books have the ability to crawl into your mind, your heart, your bloodstream. They change you. For me, it really does feel like my thoughts are not my own for a time. Like the paths they would take have been rewritten. Even my pulse feels different in my veins. And after reading Revelator, I didn’t really feel human. I was restless. Full of energy and thoughts that could not fit in my head. As a reader, this is an experience I treasure. It is rare, and I found it here.

It fits Revelator especially well because of that religious horror aspect. I would go as far as to say this is cosmic horror. It presents things beyond our understanding. And yet—I understood them. Reading this, I understood things far beyond my mortal body. I felt them. But I felt human feelings too. I felt grief, I felt anger, I felt injustice. There is deep generational and family trauma in these pages. It is acute and chronic at once. And there was a dissonance there. Those feelings tied together with this otherworldly longing. 

I hope I’m doing this book justice. It is truly difficult to describe the experience. But at the end of the day, when I felt a little more myself, I decided this really is a book for the readers. The people who love stories. Who crave a little connection with something beyond themselves. Who maybe want to, just for a little while, commune with a god.

Paperback copy courtesy of Penguin Random House

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