cover image Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Micah Dean Hicks. HMH/Adams, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-1-328-56645-4

Hicks’s wildly atmospheric and unsettling debut is a heady fusion of horror, Southern gothic, and timely social commentary. The Pig City pork processing plant and a legion of restless ghosts are the only things holding the decaying town of Swine Hill together. Jane, possessed by a ghost girl that can read minds, stays to look after her wayward father and her idealistic brother, Henry, who invents things—with his ghost’s help. His latest invention is pig people such as kindly new plant manager Walter Hogboss and his sweet-natured son, Dennis. They’re designed to self-slaughter, rendering human labor obsolete. Fearing the loss of their livelihoods, panicked citizens and their ghosts violently turn against Jane, Henry, and his creations. Jane must save her family and escape Swine Hill, no matter how high the cost. Hicks, a gifted storyteller, explores the crushing loss of hope and the dark heart of fear. Corporate greed is highlighted, and Henry’s hardworking creations are obvious stand-ins for immigrants. Alongside the metaphor is real racial tension: Jane and her family are African-American and are targets of prejudice. Hicks’s surreal, often grim vision is not without hope, even if it must come in the bloody wake of tragedy. Fans of the macabre will be enthralled. Agent: Kerry D’Agostino, Curtis Brown. (Feb.)