A quartet of reviews for Ellen Datlow’s fantastic anthology THE MONSTROUS.
Ellen Datlow and her monstrous friend
A Bookshots from LITREACTOR:
If you’re familiar with Ellen Datlow’s editing work (and really, how can you NOT know about the amazing work she’s doing) then you probably know what you’re getting yourself into with this collection of dark stories. I’ve come to expect certain authors in an anthology she edits, and I’m always drawn to those names first, as they rarely disappoint—Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Llivia Llewellyn, John Langan, Gemma Files, and Steve Rasnic Tem, for example. But just as often, and this is one of the strengths of her editing, I find a few authors I’ve never heard of before, and I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about horror fiction. I obviously don’t read enough.
Another strength of Ellen Datlow’s editing is the selection of the stories. You’ll get a few stories that echo classic storylines, classic monsters, even familiar plots and tropes, but always written in exciting and unique ways. In addition, you’ll also get innovative horror stories that not only aren’t told nearly as often, but structures and voices that scream out of the void in new ways, terrors previously unseen. There is something for everyone in this anthology, echoes of Lovecraft, brutal moments of horrific violence, unsettling depravity, and even a bit of humor sprinkled in for good measure. There are devils, demons and fallen angels in this anthology; Japanese Jinmenken (dogs with human faces); giants (buried and shipwrecked); fairy tale creatures gone dark; and rogue killers seated in a diner. It’s a fascinating mix of the familiar and lesser known mythologies.
Overall, this is a fantastic anthology. I didn’t love every story in here, but that’s to be expected. As a reader you will be challenged, as an author you will be inspired (and likely intimidated). Some of the biggest and best voices in horror are telling monstrous stories in this book, paired with new, emerging authors as well, for a stunning mix of the familiar and unexpected, horrors spiraling out into the darkness in a myriad of unsettling ways.
The stories included in THE MONSTROUS are diverse enough to create a collection that will appeal to a number of literary tastes. Yet like many superior anthologies, together, they still provide readers with a cohesive whole.
The 20 stories collected here do not set us apart from the notions of horror contained within it. I hope this is a trend that continues. Perhaps it’s the result of a world becoming more self-aware (here’s hoping!); regardless, with THE MONSTROUS, Ellen Datlow has once again delivered a collection of high-quality fiction that’s sure to please a wide variety of horror readers.
Instead of ghosts, the 25 diverse stories in THE MONSTROUS take a new look at monsters. Ellen Datlow, an author who has compiled a wide range of critically acclaimed horror anthologies, has put together an impressive array of popular authors (including Peter Straub and Caitlín R. Kiernan) who explore the idea of monsters in our daily lives in creatively unsettling ways.
If you like horror, monster stories, or are looking for something to dip in and out of on chilly fall nights, this is a great selection. I can’t rave enough about Datlow and the authors included here. As with any horror, it’s got gore, horror, elements of the supernatural, cursing, and some sexuality, so avoid if you’re squeamish or easily creeped out. Or maybe I should say easily creeped out and don’t enjoy it – I’m pretty easy to creep, but I love it!
For more on THE MONSTROUS, visit the Tachyon page.
Illustrations by John Coulthart
Cover by Reiko Murakami
Cover design by Elizabeth Story