Little Brothers Are Watching

Little brothers are annoying. They break things, they whine incessantly and they leave LEGO bricks all over the floor. All you can do is wait until they grow up and hope for the best. Like they say in Finland: Boys will be boys no matter how long you fry them in oil. 

The titular little brothers in this 1988 doorstopper are something else entirely. They’re ratty little humanoid things with fangs and razor-sharp talons. Over the years they’ve developed a taste for human flesh. 

“My ancestors—the Mi’ kmaq—call them untcigahunk (translation: younger or older brothers) because they look pretty much like people,” explains John Watson. “But they’re small, ugly and vicious. Supposedly the Great Spirit created them before he created Man.”

Now living underground, the untcigahunk come to the surface every five years for a little nasty fun. “When I was young,” continues Watson, “my grandfather would tell me stories about them. I always felt in some way like they were a small bit of revenge for what white colonizers did to my people.”

Old Man Watson might be right. There are a lot of white people living in Thornton, Maine, and twice a decade a spike in deaths plagues the small town. Who can really say, ultimately, what motivates the untcigahunk? The fact remains: They show up on a regular basis. And when they do, they bring death with them. 

The Howard family knows firsthand how deadly the creepy little buggers are. After all these years, Bill continues to mourn the death of his wife following a vicious untcigahunk attack. And Kip, the youngest of his two sons, is still in shock after seeing his mother slashed to ribbons. 

More than his father, Kip is having a particularly hard time getting over the tragedy. After years of counseling (and a little encouragement from Watson) he decides to confront the untcigahunk for some therapeutic revenge. “If I run into any of those things,” growls the 12-year-old little boy, “well, then, they’d just better watch their asses!” 

Kip and Watson descend into the untcigahunk underground lair with a bunch of inadequate supplies (a canteen full of water, a flashlight and a hunting knife). Watson is carrying a long gun, but he knows how hopeless their expedition really is. Fifteen shotguns, he figures, wouldn’t be enough to stop an onrush of subterranean monsters.

Meanwhile, there’s a ton of subplots going on in Thornton. There’s a romance brewing, a little infidelity, racism, abusive bullying, juvenile delinquent high jinx, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It’s the era of primetime MTV and the climate is jacked with a soundtrack of Ratt, Van Halen and Judas Priest. 

Don’t get too involved with these subplots, however. All of them (every single one!) go unresolved and unfulfilled. Once the story goes underground, everything above ground becomes irrelevant. But is that a bad thing? Probably not. Like all good monster novels, Little Brothers is absolutely resolute. The untcigahunk are the stars here. Don’t be distracted by anything else.

[Little Brothers / By Rick Hautala / First Printing: March 1988 / ISBN: 9780821722763]