A Light Most Hateful Is an Inventive, Creepy Wonder

Books Reviews Hailey Piper
A Light Most Hateful Is an Inventive, Creepy Wonder

Hailey Piper is one of the most powerful rising voices in genre fiction for a number of reasons. She’s got a great narrative voice, a knack for creating remarkable settings, and such a clear grasp on the kinds of stories she wants to tell that she can mash up any number of genres, plot devices, and places while never losing her particular identity as a storyteller. It’s a talent she’s been showing off for years through books like Queen of Teeth and No Gods for Drowning, as well as through dozens of short stories popping up all across the genre space. Now, with A Light Most Hateful, Piper may have delivered her most powerful story yet. 

In the small town of Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania, Olivia feels adrift. She’s got very little in terms of stability besides the kindly couple who took her in after her own family abandoned her, the drive-in theater where she reluctantly works, and of course her best friend, the effervescent Sunflower. It’s a life she’s worked hard to build, but in one night, it all comes crashing down as a strange storm blows through Chapel Hill, changing everything instantly. Monsters come out of the woodwork, townspeople turn into mindless zombies screaming messages of hate, and a deadly crystal rain falls from the sky. At first, Olivia’s only thoughts are of finding Sunflower and getting to safety, but as the night goes on, she discovers that the weird events gripping her town are about so much more than a single bizarre weather event. 

There’s a striking narrative balance that kicks off A Light Most Hateful right away, something Piper has shown off frequently in her short fiction but perhaps never deployed this skillfully in a novel before. This is a book that throws you off the deep end, inserting the supernatural into the predictable world of Chapel Hill almost immediately, then never letting up for the remainder of the novel. Within pages, monsters have emerged, chaos has cast its shadow over Olivia and her friends, and yet Piper never leaves you feeling lost as to who these people are and what they want. The characters, from Olivia to Sunflower to a unique local named Christmas, feel fully formed, tactile, and gripping, even as the world around them morphs and shifts in dangerous and increasingly unpredictable ways. It’s a remarkable narrative achievement, but that’s not the end of A Light Most Hateful‘s gifts. 

As the book goes on, and Piper comes closer and closer to unraveling the mystery of what exactly is gripping Chapel Hill, A Light Most Hateful veers into cosmic horror territory, and yet the personal touch that comes with these characters doesn’t fade. That’s because Piper is very, very good at telling these kinds of stories, but it’s also because this book in particular has more to say about the very nature of what it means to be human, to have desires and fears and attachments. 

To go into greater detail would be to diminish what Piper is able to pull off in the book’s back half, but suffice it to say A Light Most Hateful is perhaps the most ambitious book she’s ever written, a luminous and terrifyingly relatable nightmare that digs into everything from the nature of creation to the nature of individuality and so much more, all while never losing sight of the intimate relationship between two girls who found each other in the midst of a cruel and unpredictable world. 

And of course, on top of all this, the book is also quite scary. Piper’s never been lacking in unforgettable imagery throughout her career, and this book is no exception. From the first appearance of a monster to the story’s unforgettable, beautifully monstrous climax, this is a book dripping with haunting imagery and moments that’ll linger in your head long after you’ve closed it, and those visuals never come at the expense of the story. Every moment is earned, every monster deserving of its time in the spotlight. In short, it’s a perfect primer for the beautifully dark world of Hailey Piper’s fiction, as well as a must-read for longtime fans.

A Light Most Hateful is available now

Matthew Jackson is a pop culture writer and nerd-for-hire who’s been writing about entertainment for more than a decade. His writing about movies, TV, comics, and more regularly appears at SYFY WIRE, Looper, Mental Floss, Decider, BookPage, and other outlets. He lives in Austin, Texas, and when he’s not writing he’s usually counting the days until Christmas.

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