Universal Harvester (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Forget whatever you may have learned reading think pieces about Millennials, there are really only two kinds of us in this world: those who love John Darnielle and those who have dated someone who loves John Darnielle. So, in that sense, his second book Universal Harvester is kind of universal. Telling the strange and haunting story of a video store clerk who discovers that disturbing, mysterious scenes are appearing on some of the VHS tapes from his store, it is a novel about grief, full of 90s nostalgia and what could only be described as a rural loneliness. You are going to make it through this book if it kills you. -Eric

— From Spring Booknotes 2017


Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa a small town in the center of the state, the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and while the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It's good enough for Jeremy: It's a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of "Targets" an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store she has an odd complaint: There's something on it, she says, but doesn t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns "She's All That," a new release, and complains that there's something wrong with it: There's another movie on this tape.

Jeremy doesn t want to be curious. But he takes a look and, indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blinks dark for a moment and "She's All That" is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, "She's All That" is back. But there is something profoundly unsettling about that scene; Jeremy's compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto "Targets" are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks much like a barn just outside of town.
There will be no ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same . . .

About the Author

John Darnielle s first novel, Wolf in White Van, was a New York Times bestseller, National Book Award nominee, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, and widely hailed as one of the best novels of the year. He is the writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and sons."
Product Details
ISBN: 9780374282103
ISBN-10: 0374282102
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
Pages: 224
Language: English