Review: Grasshands by Kyle Winkler

cover of GrasshandsGrasshands by Kyle Winkler
JournalStone Publishing (January 2024) 
216 pages; $16.95 paperback; $6.95 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

In Kyle Winkler’s Grasshands, the line between reality and nightmare trembles, unsteady, before dispersing into scattering spiders.

“Farce lands first. Tragedy knocks later.”

Throughout this read, I often thought of Ray Bradbury, who wrote stories like Fahrenheit 451, emphasizing the power of knowledge and caution against its misuse and exploitation. Winkler revived Bradbury’s calling card of creating characters who grappled with the pursuit of knowledge, whether for the exposure of hidden truths or devotion for discovery and conjured an unputdownable biblio-horror novel.

Overworked and underpaid library assistant Sylvia Hix discovers a strange moss smothering the books. She shrugs it off. Water damage creates mold, right? But when patrons begin eating the moss and gain direct knowledge from the books, wisdom becomes a fixation, then all-consuming.

These poor saps lose their sh*t.

One man becomes a giant, and a never-ending state of horror, where mind and body only connect via pain, traps most of the population. Are you getting uncomfortable yet?

That’s where I would categorize Grasshands — disturbing horror. It delves into unsettling and frightening themes, but it is so good that I couldn’t look away. I suspect readers who enjoy titles like Bird Box by Josh Malerman and Nick Cutter’s The Troop will devour Grasshands as feverishly as I did.

There’s also an impressive infusion of dark fantasy in this book that ultimately allows Winkler to suspend any disbelief readers might have. That’s what makes it so terrifying. This seemingly absurd future begins to feel plausible, more palpable in every reveal.

Sylvia’s transformation is well-paced and empowering. The Fear Street “shit is doomed” black clouds seem unbeatable, but just wait and see what an Aristotle-loving giant, a fierce library board director-turned-warrior, and Sylvia’s trusty pike can do.

Grasshands is undoubtedly one of the scariest books of 2024. You have to read it.

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