Tag Archives: The Monstrous

Our Turn Too Will One Day Come by Brian Hodge

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Our Turn Too Will One Day Come
Author: Brian Hodge
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Paranormal fantasy
Dates read: 30th April 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Noelle leaned against my back, her freshest tears on my shoulder.

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Synopsis

You don’t want to get a call in the middle of the night. Especially not one that involves your sister asking you to bring a shovel… but what happens next is FAR FAR worse.

Thoughts

This was a very intense, family-secrets way too real kind of story. But it was brilliant. And gorgeous. And seriously put me in my happy place. Again, not going to delve too far into the fact that a freaky story with a pretty twisted family secret puts me in my happy place… there are just some questions we probably shouldn’t ask.

One of my favourite aspects to this story is that the big, bad family secret is handed down through the women in the family line. Although the men, and the voice of this story, know that there is something untoward going on. It is up to the women to harbour, and nurture their secrets. And then, when it is all finally revealed… well, I can’t say it was a comfortable moment… but it was an intriguing one.

After finishing this story, the question that kept popping up in my mind was… what price do we pay? What price is paid for money and wealth and security? For a lineage that we want to honour and love. What prices do I pay for my daily life? Definitely nothing as drastic in this story… but still, I keep wondering…

<- Catching FliesGrindstone ->

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Catching Flies by Carole Johnstone

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Catching Flies
Author: Carole Johnstone
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: FamilyHorror
Dates read: 26th April 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: And then she stopped.

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Synopsis

Her Mum is gone and she has to protect her little brother. But from what? You’ll never be comfortable ‘catching flies’ again.

Thoughts

This was a seriously creepy story. I mean, I knew it was going to be fairly uncomfortable, because all of the short stories in The Monstrous collection kind of are. But, it’s all written in the voice of a little girl…. I think I kind of hoped it would be a little less… insanely intense. And uncomfortable. And gruesome.

The little girl in this story is not the only one who has been told “close your mouth, or the flies will get in”. I am probably now never going to say that myself… this story made that an especially creepy way to think about / talk about such a thing. And, I’m pretty sure I was still missing something in the storyline. Mostly, there is just a horrible darkness of flies and death and mystery. It is truly horrible.

The part of this story that I love the most is that the girl who tells this story is a big sister. And she will do pretty much anything to protect her younger brother. Including sacrifice herself. It’s definitely something that I feel towards my younger sister…. That need to protect her. Against pretty much everything.

<- Down Among the DeadOur Turn Too Will One Day Come ->

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Down Among the Dead Men by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Down Among the Dead Men
Author: Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Horror, War
Dates read: 20th April 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: He fingered the spoon compulsively, turning it over and over; it was hard and smooth and cold, and he clenched it as tightly as he could, trying to ignore the fine tremouring of his hands.

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Synopsis

He always thought that they were friends. That he was their saviour. But, then he realises that they’re all dead here. Just some are a little more dead than others.

Thoughts

There seem to be a few Jewish / war / prisoner of war stories popping up in my reading at the moment. And although they’re completely heart-wrenching, kind of devastating and seriously intense… they’re also kind of completely amazing. And I am definitely in love with them. What I didn’t expect was to find one such story in a collection of monstrous fantasy stories…

At the beginning of this story, I figured it was going to be dark. After all, it starts with the moment that the narrator first realises that his friend is a vampire. But, then I thought he was going to be a nice vampire… there were so many justifications for his actions. And then things got dark again. Which to me, is the mark of a great story – one which takes you through ups and downs and makes you constantly question your assumptions. The fact that it was done in only a very few pages just made it all the more impressive.

This short story had a much darker, more twisty ending than what I had expected. Which, of course, is kind of why I loved it. There is something fantastic about a dark ending that leaves you disquieted and uncomfortable.

<- The Chill Clutch of the UnseenCatching Flies ->

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The Chill Clutch of the Unseen by Kim Newman

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Chill Clutch of the Unseen
Author: Kim Newman
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Horror
Dates read: 5th April 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: It occurred to him that she might have inherited the job of station-master – station-mistress? – while he was paying attention to what might be coming into town as opposed to what was happening right here.

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Synopsis

He’s been doing this job for years. Protecting his town from the things that go bump in the night. But, now, he’s found the last monster… and he’s getting old.

Thoughts

This short story starts right in the action. Or at least, right in the waiting for the action and the creepy imagery of an old man just waiting… waiting to kill something. It’s all written from his kind of intense point of view and you just sit there in awe throughout the entire story. Anything that you expect to happen… it quickly doesn’t quite happen the way that you expect it to.

My favourite part of this story is honestly the ending. It rounds out the old man’s life and finishes up his purpose in the world. But, it also hints that whilst his cycle is over, the overall cycle is still continuing. That there is more going on in the world than we would expect and you just sit there contemplating what could be hidden just beneath the surface…

The appearance of the incredibly insane Invisible Man in this story nicely rounded everything out for me. There is something fascinating and entertaining about the story of that man… so I seriously enjoyed reading about him. And his demise. After all, you can’t have a good monster book without the monsters dying at the end…

<- The TotalsDown Among the Dead Men ->

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The Totals by Adam-Troy Castro

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Totals
Author: Adam-Troy Castro
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Horror
Dates read: 25th March 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: It seems strange but right for the door on the other side of the vestibule, leading to the diner interior, to be scaled to his dimensions: a novelty, he’s always possessed an awkward shape and monstrous bulk that makes breaking down doors somewhat more natural than opening them.

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Synopsis

Clutch knows he has killed recently. But he can’t remember who. He can’t remember why. Walking by chance into an inn that feels like home might provide the answers… or just oblivion.

Thoughts

The start of this story is seriously creepy and horrific. It starts with Clutch knowing that he has killed someone recently. That he always knows this. He just doesn’t know who or why. He does know how… he literally “clutches” them to death. And then he walks into a dinner and you think that things are just going to get worse. It’s a spinetingling way to start a story. And the imagery of the blood still lingering on his clothes… just seems to make it all that much worse.

There are so many ideas about the things that go bump in the night. Although, there are always a few common, recognisable aspects among these. This story found unique ways to create new horrors, but also provided the reader with some of the classics that you immediately recognise. It’s a great mix of the traditional and the new. And spouting the things that go bump in the night as members of a corporation who just want to climb the ladder… well, it kind of mixes two things that are kind of scary.

Although this is a great little horror short story, it’s also a little amusing. In that satirical way. That way that makes you sit back afterwards and go “huh”. That was good, that made some great comments on the way that the world works. And yes, things aren’t ever equal. Regardless of how much we may want them to be.

<- The Last, Clean, Bright SummerThe Chill Clutch of the Unseen ->

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The Last, Clean, Bright Summer by Livia Llewellyn

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Last, Clean, Bright Summer
Author: Livia Llewellyn
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 10th March 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Wides rivers of shit and afterbirth and viscera, blossoming into dark clouds as they slide under the waters.

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Synopsis

She’s returning for their yearly family reunion after her little brother died… but this time it will be different. She’s old enough to take part in the festivities… which might make this the last, clean, bright summer she’ll ever enjoy.

Thoughts

So this story is seriously disturbed.

Not what I was expecting. And certainly, something that made me seriously uncomfortable. At first I thought that this would just be a creepy story that featured the things that go bump in the night… it was so, so much more. I can’t really explain how… because that will give away the surprise, but it was definitely not what I expected. And seriously not something that I wanted.

I really, really enjoyed this short story. It gave me goosebumps, made me uncomfortable and just in general left me sitting there feeling completely weirded out. Yet, it was amazingly well written and made me think of the ways in which men and women are used and the places that they take in society. More specifically, how women are used and perceived – it was not a complimentary outlook.

It is difficult to write a review about this short story without giving anything away. It is phenomenal and engaging. Impossible to forget. But something you’ll have to read to truly understand.

<- A Wish from a BoneThe Totals ->

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A Wish from a Bone by Gemma Files

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: A Wish from a Bone
Author: Gemma Files
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Gods
Dates read: 8th March 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Reluctantly: “The last couple times I did this, there was a physical copy of the Liber Carne in play, so getting rid of that helped – but there’s no copy here, which makes us the Liber Carne, the human pages being Inscribed.”

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Synopsis

They just wanted to discover something new and exciting. And catch it all on film of course. And they did… sort of. Just not the kind of excitement they really wanted.

Thoughts

This short story seriously reminds me of another story that I’ve read. Something about the nine pre-gods of ancient times. But I can’t quite pinpoint which story it was… I did love that feeling of aching familiarity that I felt though. It was kind of fun, definitely intriguing. And something that I will continue to think about, long after I’ve turned the final page of this story.

It did take me a little while to get into this story. Hence the lower rating… if it takes me a little bit to get into a short story, then I don’t tend to love it as much. There just isn’t enough time otherwise. But it was still enjoyable. I especially liked the slightly jumpy way in which the story leapt forward in snatches.

Most of all I liked the ending of this story. There was something about that statement that we are never truly alone that was far more creepy than comforting. Which, really, is exactly how it should be.

<- The Beginning of the Year Without a SummerThe Last, Clean, Bright Summer ->

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The Beginning of the Year Without a Summer by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Beginning of the Year Without a Summer
Author: Caitlin R. Kiernan
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy
Dates read: 5th March 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Me and my mom both found them.

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Synopsis

Dark, deep and intriguing. An impossible short story to put down.

Thoughts

There is something dark and intriguing about this short story. Which I’m starting to recognise as a bit of a hallmark of Kiernan’s writing. There is a sense of vagueness in the story, but one which worked brilliantly. It gave an even darker, more mystical feel to the storyline.

Although this short story stood well on its own, it would have also been fantastic as the introduction to a novel. It felt like there was so much more behind the scenes of this story. So much more that could have been teased out.

I loved the feel of this story. I also loved the fact that I read it late at night, with a glass of wine in hand and the dogs on my lap. It kind of helped to build that feeling of mystery and darkness that Kiernan does so well. Definitely one that I’ll go back and read again soon.

<- Giants in the EarthA Wish from a Bone ->

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Ashputtle by Peter Straub

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: Ashputtle
Author: Peter Straub
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow) & Black Thorn, White Rose (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Horror, Retellings
Dates read: 8th January 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: She was loved.

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Synopsis

Ashputtle is the newest version of Cinderella. With a much darker, far more disturbing twist…

Thoughts

This is an incredibly insane version of Cinderella. Like, seriously insane. One that I absolutely adored. And couldn’t get enough of. And just seriously enjoyed… but it was dark, and made me think of Cinderella (or in this case Ashputtle) as more of a monster than a victim. Which is probably why I loved it so much. Nothing like a sick, disturbing story to make my crazy brain happy.

I found some of the points made about fat people really interesting. The idea that they’re presumed to be stupid or just plain ignored. It was painfully true. But also helped to create a cloak behind which Ashputtle could hide her atrocities. It’s a little bit scary how spot on these moments were and made me stop and think about how I deal with other people.

My biggest question about this short story is – what was done to the children? I know the culprit. I know that they went missing. And I even know why they were the selected victims. But what I don’t know is what was done with them? And my imagination is not leading me to nice, happy places with that…

<- A Natural History of AutumnGiants in the Earth ->

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A Natural History of Autumn by Jeffrey Ford

Overview
Image result for the monstrous ellen datlow book cover

Title: A Natural History of Autumn
Author: Jeffrey Ford
In: The Monstrous (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Japanese mythology, Monsters
Dates read: 2nd May 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Tachyon
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Riku fired, but the face flinched away in an instant, and once the bullet went wide and filled a neat hole in the door, the creature returned and said, “Tomodachi.”

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Synopsis

Riku and Michi are spending a night away together in a mysterious location. But, before they see dawn, they’re going ot face up to some of the worst demons… both inside and out.

Thoughts

I really enjoyed this short story. it was a great introduction to the idea of monsters in a monster collection, and that sometimes they’re not always as they seem. I think if I was a bit more familiar with Japanese folklore, I would have picked up more in this story and a bit more of the symbolism. But even without that understanding, this was a great, fun and engaging read. One that I was kind of sad to see finished. And especially sad to find out that it’s not part of a greater series.

Autumn is one of those months that doesn’t really seem to get much attention… the other three all have traditions and histories, and, unless you’re American, Autumn just seems to pass on by. But there is something that is a little bit magical about the month. A little bit sinister. And a little bit dark and twisty. Which makes it the perfect setting for this monstrous adventure. It’s not entirely a dark story, but it’s also not all spring and sunshine either.

I like the twist at the end of this tale. I’m still not sure that I fully understand it, but I know that I enjoyed it. And it is one of those tales that on a reread will probably reveal clues that I never noticed before.

<- The MonstrousAshputtle ->

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