Review: It Looks Like Us

Today, I’m reviewing It Looks Like Us by Alison Ames. After the fiendish To Break a Covenant, she became an author I had my eye keenly fixed on. She cements her status with this insidious, intense and claustrophobic story, combining cutting social commentary with a story with shades of the staple of horror films: The Thing. 

This post first appeared on The Nerd Daily.

Shy high school junior Riley Kowalski is spending her winter break on a research trip to Antarctica, sponsored by one of the world’s biggest tech companies. She joins five student volunteers, a company-approved chaperone, and an impartial scientist to prove that environmental plastic pollution has reached all the way to Antarctica, but what they find is something much worse… something that looks human.

Riley has anxiety – ostracised by the kids at school because of panic attacks – so when she starts to feel like something’s wrong with their expedition leader, Greta, she writes it off. But when Greta snaps and tries to kill Riley, she can’t chalk it up to an overactive imagination anymore.

Worse, after watching Greta disintegrate, only to find another student with the same affliction, she realises they haven’t been infected, they’ve been infiltrated – by something that can change its shape. And if the group isn’t careful, that something could quickly replace any of them.

Publication Date: 27th September

TW: death, murder, blood, violence, gore, panic attacks, suicidal ideation

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

It Looks Like Us is a sinistrous nightmare. Trust nothing and beware everything. 

This is a deeply unsettling, psychologically horrendous book. Ames stalks your mind just as the monster stalks our central characters. The central premise of this book makes it impossible to trust anyone or anything you see on the page. This is an incredibly oppressive and baleful atmosphere, driven by mistrust and fear. The isolated nature of the setting adds to the unervedness, particularly that fear of the unknown and the undefined. Nature is an eternal mystery, offering so many beautiful moments but also hellish moments of darkness. Ames really leans into that here, with a meditation on the horror caused by capitalist endeavour and the pursuit of profit despite the cost. Monsters come in both recognisable and unknown forms here, human and something else entirely. The societal parallels here are unmistakable and that eco horror commentary is something striking and unusual. 

From the first page, Ames ensures that you know this will be a bloody and frightening tale. That opening was incredibly atmospheric and definitely had me hooked. I liked the narrative style, moving from flashback to interview. The little hints at future actions and the way you know this is a doomed experience from the first page are brilliant. Ames excels in that fine ground that combines stomach-churning gore and action on the page with those spindly voices whispering in the back of your skull. Those body horror and contortion scenes are pure nightmare fuel. Rarely does a book actually leave chills on your skin and flashes of fear in the night than this book. There are plenty of very, very horrific scenes that are properly skin crawling, but plenty more moments that make the pit in your stomach drop because you are just anticipating more bloodshed. You are always on edge reading, questioning everything you are presented with. That psychological torment and paranoia in the characters is so well-executed and really adds to the atmosphere of terror. 

Of course, horror only hits as hard if you actually care about the characters you are reading about. An absolute highlight of the book for me was these three-dimensional and loveable group of teenagers. The teenage friendships the characters form in only a few days add depth to the book. Our protagonist Riley’s compassion and connection with the others makes you want to root for them even more, despite knowledge of their eventual fate. Riley is a perfect central voice for the narrative, plagued by anxiety and panic attacks, but determined to push herself. Her voice is so arresting and enveloping that you really find yourself falling in love with her. The bleakness of the situation they face and everyone’s desire to survive makes the stakes rise even higher. Beyond Riley, our other four teenage companions are well thought out and developed. They all grow beyond their initial introductions and add vital elements of survival. This makes the shape shifting aspect of the monster that much more devastating. When you are not sure if someone you see is really the person you know, it makes every interaction become charged with an undercurrent of distrust. 

It Looks Like Us is a tragic horror story that twists your mind and keeps you checking over your shoulder constantly. It is both a raging fire of horror and blood and a whisper in the dark. 


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