Tag Archives: The Monstrous

The Monstrous edited by Ellen Datlow

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Monstrous
Author: Ellen Datlow, Jeffrey Ford, Peter Straub, Dale Bailey, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gemma Files, Livia Llewellyn, Adam-Troy Castro, Kim Newman, Jack Dann, Gardner Dozois, Carole Johnstone, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Adam L. G. Nevill, Sofia Samatar, Terry Dowling, Glen Hirshberg, A.C. Wise, Steve Rasnic Tem, Christopher Fowler & John Langan
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Horror, Short story collections
Dates read: 8th January – 3rd June 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Anthology
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: “I supppose I do,” I reply.

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Synopsis

Horror’s most acclaimed editor reveals twenty riveting tales of the Other gone wrong. Monsters who suffer from heartbreak, betrayal, ungrateful kids, and unpaid overtime. Creatures of darkness that struggle to adapt to modern living. Ordinary folks who find themselves inexplicably transformed. 88 But if you dare, come a bit closer and discover the most terrifying of beings – those who are living under your own skin and peering out from behind your eyes.

Thoughts

This collection is brilliant. It is dark, creepy and intense. It is fun. It gave me goose bumps. And it is filled with monsters who come in ALL shapes and sizes. And I mean ALL. A wonderful, fantastic and seriously enjoyable collection filled with the things that go bump in the night. The things that you really hope aren’t hiding under your bed.

Although this anthology sits in my horror shelf, it isn’t really all that scary. Sure, there are multiple moments of discomfort throughout. But they’re that, you have to think a little too much, or consider the many moments of confusion throughout this story that you really don’t necessarily want to think too much about. And, honestly, it’s not the things that jump out and yell BOO that make me love horror. It’s that underlying discomfort that makes you look at your own life that I am quickly becoming obsessed with.

I absolutely adored this collection. It was filled with some familiar names and new ones. Each and every story made me stop and really think about what the storyline was saying. And even now, when I have still finished the whole collection… I am still thinking about some of the stories that I read.

<- Run, Rabbit, RunA Natural History of Autumn ->

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Corpsemouth by John Langan

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Corpsemouth
Author: John Langan
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 3rd June 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: I didn’t know what to say.

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Synopsis

Take a journey into the not-so-pleasant world of Corpsemouth.

Thoughts

Writing this review, I struggle a little to remember exactly what this short story is about. I remember that I enjoyed this while I read it. That I thought it was fun, dark and enjoyable. But what it was actually about – that I can’t really remember. It’s a bit of a blur there.

One thing that I also remember about this story is that it was a brilliant style of writing. Disjointed and hard to follow. Which is probably why I don’t hugely remember what I actually read. But, it’s also why I still gave this a four out of five stars… it might be disjointed and difficult to remember the storyline. But it was also something that I remember really enjoying at the time.

This is one of those stories that, although I can’t write much about it in a review… I will definitely read it again. Not just because I enjoyed it the first time, so figure I’ll enjoy it the second time. But also because I think that this is one of those stories that I will gain more out of the more and more times I read it.

<- Piano ManNaked City ->

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Piano Man by Christopher Fowler

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Piano Man
Author: Christopher Fowler
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 2nd June 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Then I heard it again, closer this time, a sound like a harpsichord being dropped on its side, discordant high notes and bass echoes that underscored the movement of something shifting hesitantly outside the walls.

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Synopsis

A renovation involving an antique piano takes a sinister turn. One that will shock and surprise you.

Thoughts

This is a really disjointed short story. It wasn’t even remotely what I expected. But it was also really good. However, the disjointed nature did mean that it took me a little while to catch up with what was going on… maybe what the author had in mind when he wrote this?

There was / is something about Piano Man that I can’t quite seem to get out of my head. Something powerful that lingers and haunts. And just in general captivates. There’s the setting and the characters and the mystery. There’s the supernatural and the mundane. It all works together to create this great, kind of unforgettable story that left me with, well, not a smile, because it was a dark story, but left me happy that I had read this story.

I don’t fully understand the supernatural element in this story. I think that I would have to reread it to find the hints about this element that I had kind of missed. But, overall, I did really enjoy reading this tale. And experiencing such a great, intense, impossible to forget tale. Seriously enjoyable.

<- The Monster MakersCorpsemouth ->

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The Monster Makers by Steve Rasnic Tem

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Monster Makers
Author: Steve Rasnic Tem
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Family, Horror
Dates read: 25th May 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: They kick and wave, thrilled.

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Synopsis

Have you ever wondered where little monsters come from? Are they born or are they made? And just who makes them?

Thoughts

I both thought that this story was kind of nice and really not pleasant. I mean, the grandfather obviously dotes upon his grandchildren. And his wife. And he spends the entirety of the story loving them all for exactly who they are. But then there’s the dark side…

And what a dark side it is… there is a weirdness in this constant idea of changing bodies and creatures. There is the loss of sanity and ambulatory skills in the grandparents. But most of all, there is the relationship between narrator (Grandfather) and son. It’s a little bit uncomfortable and upsetting.

Yet, it continues to get darker and darker. Once the bad thing to the son happens, then there is yet another not so good moment in which the grandchildren… well, I’m not really sure what they do. But I know that it’s creepy. You’ll just have to pick up this short story to find out what I’m talking about for yourself.

<- Chasing SunsetPiano Man ->

Image source: Amazon

Chasing Sunset by A.C. Wise

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Chasing Sunset
Author: A.C. Wise
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 24th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: “…where he makes us go when we’re bad.”

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Synopsis

He doesn’t want to be like his father. So he runs. And runs. And runs. But is he running from the horrors, or into a trap?

Thoughts

Running from the past is a pretty common theme in stories. But when that past involves your father and the idea that you too, will turn into a monster? That is a pretty creepy story line.

Whilst reading this short story, I did get kind of pulled in. And swept away. But it was not the kind of story that I was completely obsessed with. Not the sort of story that I strongly remember after I turn that final page.

I did like the ending though. Taking place on a cliffside and ending the thing that has tortured you. There is a sense of completion that is not always around in the short stories that fill The Monstrous collection.

<- Miss Ill-Kept RuntThe Monster Makers ->

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Miss Ill-Kept Runt by Glen Hirshberg

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Miss Ill-Kept Runt
Author: Glen Hirshberg
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Family, Horror
Dates read: 19th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Toward the red and beating thing.

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Synopsis

Chloe doesn’t understand why all of her family has changed. Maybe it IS just the move… or is it something far, far darker?

Thoughts

This was seriously dark and twisty. At first, I kind of thought that Chloe was being stolen by body snatchers. And, since the whole story is written in her very innocent voice, that was even more tragic than it would normally be. Mostly though, it is the idea of a young girl who is supposed to be surrounded by a loving family… not being surrounded by love. And then you find the twist.

You get this idea throughout that the older brother was somehow close to dying when they were young or a baby. That his very nickname of Miracle has a whole slew of meanings. Not necessarily happy, positive meanings either. The idea of any child being referred to as a miracle kind of makes me a little squirly inside.

This is one of those stories that once you turn that final page you just want to grab your loved ones close. There is such an open ended, chilling ending to this that is just downright uncomfortable. Which of course is why it takes centre stage in this collection.

<- Jenny Come to PlayChasing Sunset ->

Image source: Amazon

Jenny Come to Play by Terry Dowling

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Jenny Come to Play
Author: Terry Dowling
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 17th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: He told Angela to have one of the staff bring Ms. Haniver through at once.

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Synopsis

Julia is in an institute after checking herself in. When her sister starts leaving her little gifts, her mysterious, dark past comes to life… and death.

Thoughts

So this story got super creepy super quick. Like super, super, extra uncomfortable creepy. From zero to one hundred in no time at all. Seriously not okay. Seriously uncomfortable. But really, really good and impossible to forget.

I find it very interesting (in a disturbing way) that conjoined twins tend to feature pretty heavily in the more uncomfortable stories. This one is just way, way creepier than most of the stories I’ve read that feature this sense of discomfort. So dramatically creepy that I’m still thinking about it long after I turned that final page… plus, there’s also a mental institution, which just adds another layer of discomfort…

I wouldn’t suggest reading this short story if you’re about to spend some time with twins. I have twin friends that I really like. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with them immediately after reading this… there was just a whole new level of creepy… with the maze and the twins and the hypnosis…

<- How I Met the GhoulMiss Ill-Kept Runt ->

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Doll Hands by Adam L.G. Nevill

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Doll Hands
Author: Adam L.G. Nevill
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 15th May 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Gemima is the tiny woman who wears rubber sandals and who never speaks.

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Synopsis

He has doll hands and everyone thinks that he’s weak. But the reality is so much darker.

Thoughts

Reading this short story, I had a somewhat weird image of a little, bulbous headed horror running around. Killing people. I don’t think that that is an inaccurate image. But it’s certainly not a super fun and exciting one. It’s certainly not one that you want in your mind’s eye just before you go to sleep at night…

Even though I can’t quite feel okay about the narrator of this story, he kind of reminded me a little of a sick and twisted and malformed Dexter. The kill described in this short story is definitely done because of a gross misjustice. But it’s also done because Doll Hands likes to kill. Which leaves some very, very mixed feelings at the completion of this short story. Feelings that still feel very mixed, long after I have turned the final page.

I absolutely adored the creepy nature of this story. The idea that the deformed person that is often overlooked is the one who should really be watched much, much closer. But, most of all, I loved that it ended with what I’m sure would be another death. A creepy character in a creepy little world. Such a great story to give you goosebumps.

<- GrindstoneHow I Met the Ghoul ->

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How I Met the Ghoul by Sofia Samatar

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: How I Met the Ghoul
Author: Sofia Samatar
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy
Dates read: 14th May 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: You could say it’s in my blood.

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Synopsis

It’s an interesting interview. One that was polite, intriguing, but not 100% remembered by the interviewer. This is how they met the ghoul.

Thoughts

This short story is about an interview. Which at the beginning I honestly found a little bit odd. I’ve read stories in interview format, diaries, dialogue, etc. But never a story that is a story about an interview. And then it leaves so many aspects of that interview out. It all makes it a wee bit confusing. But, ultimately, I actually understood why at the conclusion and found this style seriously enjoyable.

Ghouls aren’t something that I normally come across much in the stories I read, in fact, other than the Nicki Styx series, I’m not entirely sure I can think of another series of stories in which they feature. Which makes me seriously appreciate this short story. A unique paranormal creature and a different, contemporary way in which to deal with it. What isn’t there to like?

All in all, even though this was written in a format that I most definitely didn’t expect, it was definitely a fun read. Like most of the other stories in The Monstrous it dealt with the things that go bump in the night that we don’t normally think of. But, unlike the rest of the stories, it wasn’t quite so creepy and horrific. Mostly, it was just a good read that reminded me I should find some more “ghoul” books.

<- Doll HandsJenny Come to Play ->

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Grindstone by Stephen Graham Jones

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Grindstone
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 11th May 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: They were popping off the surface of the rock in…in regular patterns.

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Synopsis

He’s a predator, who has finally met his comeuppance. But, will the ending really be what we expect?

Thoughts

This was a seriously creepy story. I always love stories which feature the point of view of the villain. But, normally there is kind of a moment of understanding. If not total acceptance of the character, then at least, an understanding what drives the person who commits a crime. This didn’t have that. The villain / narrator was just horrible and creepy and really, really not okay.

The image of the slugs falling from the body of the lead character is a really great piece of imagery that I can’t quite keep out of my head. It is disturbing, kind of sick and seriously graphic. In the best of ways. It was kind of sick, disturbing, and twisted. But a perfect fit for this collection and short story.

I love the darkness and twistiness of this story. It was a great, fun read and one that I keep thinking about. It’s not the sort of story I’m going to read again and again and again. But definitely one that was seriously enjoyable.

<- Our Turn Too Will One Day ComeDoll Hands ->

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