I first encountered Daryl Gregory’s work when I served as one of the judges for the Philip K Dick Awards. His book Pandemonium was one of the many that were dumped on me. (Many. Many, so many. Of, shall we say, varying levels of skill.)
But unlike most of the others offered for consideration, this book grabbed me from the start, and immediately proved itself “unputdownable” as we say nowadays. It certainly had my vote for the PKD award — but alas, it ended up being disqualified as being fantasy and not SF. (An argument could be made for it being SF, and I did make that argument. My fellow judges were not convinced – even though that argument was actually present in the book itself, and uttered by Philip K Dick.)
Regardless — on the basis of Pandemonium I started seeking out everything I could find by Daryl Gregory, and I was not disappointed.
He’s not just good — he’s good enough that I will now read anything by him, even things I wouldn’t normally read, because I know he’ll deliver.
Horror novel? I generally dislike horror, but when I went to a live reading of his at Readercon last year, he read from We Are All Completely Fine, and I instantly pre-ordered it.
Zombies? I hate zombies. Raising Stony Mayhall? Snatched it up.
There’s something especially engaging about Gregory’s characters. I think that (like Robert Charles Wilson, another favorite of mine), he’s particularly good at giving the reader a strong sense of how remarkable and shattering events effect the real people stuck in the middle of it all, the ground-level experience. And he’s able to make me love his characters — possibly in part because he so clearly loves them himself.
His most recent is Afterparty (in which there is a drug that makes you think you see God), but I think that if you’re new to his work, Pandemonium is a good place to start. It’s charming, and eerie, unpredictable and heartbreaking. And I do so love the two brothers, Del and Lew, who seem so perfectly real to me, with such true-to-life adult sibling interaction, the kind that has a wealth of history behind it.
Another good place to start is with his short story collection, Unpossible. You’ll get a real sense of his range from that.
(Okay, I admit that I have not looked at his series of graphic novels for the Planet of the Apes. A guy’s gotta make a living, I suppose. But maybe I should check them out… since he can make enjoy a book about zombies, maybe he can sell me on tie-ins, too? Hm.)