We Make Monsters Here

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3 Stars

These tales of life and the choices we make were interesting. Giving them a supernatural twist was definitely a fun take on what could be the same cliche tales. Even still some of them were fairly predictable. The beginning stories were the most interesting. They had their flaws but were still fun reads. As the stories progressed however, they evolved and devolved into something that felt more agenda-driven than life lesson driven, and in some it was hard to decipher the lesson through the delivery. For at least two of them, maybe three I knew what the message was but if a reader didn’t grab the message before the end of the story something about the way they delivered gave the impression it would be hard to weed out.

All my reviews are long 🙂 but the anthologies are longer because of multiple stories.

Monster Truck

The concept of real monsters coming together under one cooperation to scare humans was fun. Kinda like an adultier version of Monsters Inc. except with all supernatural beings involved. The conversations about job security and how humans don’t fear them anymore were fun and I enjoyed it but it missed on a few points. Firstly werewolves, the most popular kind, have day jobs. Even the evil uncontrollable on a full moon type do. They are essentially human. The idea one has to drive a truck and scare people for money is hard to get on board with. Vampires can work night times and spiders live like real non-supernatural spiders—kill your prey and eat it. The lesson about humans being the real monsters and the monsters not knowing this is a hard sell. I live off of serial killer/murder series and real-life killer documentaries. And horror films just plain rock. It’s hard to believe for the werewolf driver and the others that they don’t know humans can be inherently evil and that this lack of knowledge is making them sad. Especially in a world where humans have the tech to record ghost. Do they not know about any famous murders or bombings? The vampire has lived through wars he definitely should not be surprised. And, as far as the end, it would’ve been nice to see the human leave and, haunted by his own thoughts, the werewolf killed another innocent. The official ending I was hoping would not happen. I literally tried to will the author not to go that way because most would. But they did. Though it was entertaining to read it ultimately followed the line I thought it would take so didn’t feel as awesome as it should’ve.

A Dinner Date

This was definitely fun to read. I may have smiled a bit during the beginning paragraphs. The whole concept of deriving pleasure from literally being eaten was just buckets of fun. As the story built towards its climax I was ready, but then it sorta stretched into the normal fair like the first one. I tried to will this ending from not happening too but yeah. It happened. The lead up was great, the impending climax suspension was almost great. There was something about how the guy was stalling that made me think he either was faking it just to have sex with her or, well that’s it. It made me uneasy so the moment date two happened I was starting to shift from fun story to please don’t be what I think. There was one line that gave it entirely away and everything after that was like, smh and big sigh. It would’ve been more horrifying had that date gone horribly wrong and she did not enjoy it as much as she expected but death is finite after all. Or if the guy numbed her so she could never feel the release she yearned for when he killed her. Unfortunately, this one went the usual route also. However, it was definitely way fun to read so there’s that. I smiled way too much as she prepared all the side dishes and even had recipes ready. If you’re going to do it go hard, and she did.

The Weed

The best thing in this anthology. No lie. I loved this one. Loved it, and did I say loved it. The idea behind this one was so much fun to get into. The connection to the weed and how we become the choices we make. In this one, it was very well crafted. The ending, however, was odd. Like unless some saving was about to be had there was zero reason for the girlfriend to be there. She would be traumatised and as this is a short story there is no time to delve into that. She dumped him and readers would be more than okay with never seeing her again unless it actually served a purpose. Also, why would the killer want a witness anyway? The biggest issue was what does the villain get out of this. I got the impression he was supposed to be feeding off wasted potential, but he doesn’t seem to get more powerful. He lives in some sort of rundown apartment and his only real purpose is to dry petals and push out more of his supernatural weed. It was my favourite story, but it read more like it should’ve been a novella than a short story. With more of the villain’s POV the tale would’ve been like stupid-awesome. Somehow it being a short story took away from that. It’s still my favourite by far.

Soundstage Earth

This one was also fun. The flow was well. The lead understandable. Not much to say here except for the one big unfortunate. The moment it was mentioned movies and stuff were sent in this attempt to contact alien life forms I knew where it was going. The ‘mistake movies for reality’ plotline. Everything in me screamed please don’t let it be that but I knew it would be. This, unfortunately, happens so early on that for a reader like me it’s more of a hurdle to overcome for an author. Thankfully, how it played out, was fun and interesting enough to partially outdo that initial feeling. The message hidden in this one was subtly and cleverly played, and the point made by the ending was also well done. This one, like the one before it, definitely lived up to expectations even with the rather disappointing opening.

Bushido Virtue 35

This is where things get weird. Couldn’t make sense of this one. Read the ending the most out of all of them. Is everyone dead except for Steve? Is this entire thing all in the main character Mike’s head? In the end he sees them all looking at him with blood in their eyes but when I say end I mean end. Literally the last five paragraphs so it’s hard to make sense of how the murder, if there is indeed one, and the friends, and Steve all fit into it. It’s also hard to figure out the parallel to the Samurai fight scene happening on the TV. It’s just everything seems normal. Friends sharing an apartment, a self-centred friend who seems to be the leader of the group and a board game that doesn’t have a single supernatural element I can find and then, murder happens and you can’t tell if Steve killed Mike, or if some supernatural force from the game has killed him, or if anything I just read really happened and it was all a set up to trap Mike’s soul in the apartment. And the very last sentence left me feeling… Huh? It didn’t really explain anything, and upon rereading the story it was still hard to see how that was the point without any actual evidence concerning the other friends and their living status in the apartment to confirm it. Are they alive, dead, held there by force? You don’t know any of this even at the end so it’s hard to see what the point of the last sentence is.

Madge The world Spider and One last Drink

I wanted to like this one but it just didn’t sell well. Man gets drunk, walks into a bar. And has to learn a lesson about suffering. But he doesn’t actually learn it. All his suffering hinges on getting his girl back and, when he can’t get an answer he starts a bar fight, because even with the evidence of the dancing Madge he somehow thinks fighting is going to get him out, and then, after all that he goes back in time to save Madge. Sigh. The opportunity to show him that it’s our choices that decide our level of suffering and that even then suffering will still exist, it’s a part of life after all, seems to get washed over for a rescue mission. As if learning about his own suffering isn’t important. That he could indeed live the life he has positively, suffering and all or just do like his ex, up and leave it all trading it in for something new even though there will still be suffering, is not the lesson to be learned apparently. My biggest takeaway was that if saving Madge gave her a new lease on life and she decided to do like his ex and go live it fully, the man had not learned enough to decide to follow her this time and not make the same mistake twice. He just decided he’d save her which is admirable but he himself didn’t seem to be changed.

What I learned about Ghosts of Route 64

This one got such a big negative reaction out of me. The bus driver getting fired and losing his job because of a bratty kid, plus the bouncing through the past and present with only page breaks and not actually saying it was a time shift, all together lead to me not reading this one at all. Add the fact that he lost the lawsuit which lost him his home. Yeah. Did not read this one.

Doughboy

This one was way predictable. The set-up made it obvious what was going to happen once doughboy came into the picture and the lesson about how we live what we learn felt undermined by the race angle. As a reader, I would assume lots of people across cultures live in this sort of judgy, holier than though way and the message that fate will come back to destroy you is an easy sell for any and everyone but it was played up against the race angle so it felt more like it was leaning towards some sort of other point even though the outcome would have you believe it was more about fate and how the lessons we teach can determine our fate. Definitely one of the better-written stories but it was hard to see past some sort of dual message here.

War Mother

Something about not naming the characters made this very impersonal. And the use of War Mother seemed odd just like War Spider. That aside, I honestly read this expecting some sort of big supernatural situation, I mean why call her War Mother otherwise? Also why War Sister if she wasn’t the same as her brother and why only the son’s/men being associated with war seeing as women can enlist too? I wasn’t really into this one but once I knew what happened, I was actually like, okay, this is pretty awesome but then the whole ending, and dog tags, and the you know what you must do and… I dunno. Does he do this with all the moms and family members whose actions lead to undesirable consequences? The message in this one was extremely clear and a good one but the really hyped up ending lost me a bit. It was kinda like Bushido Virtue 35. Even knowing what the message was this time I still managed to get lost in the rather huge epic ending.

Back-Bone Pit

This one definitely did not take the turn I thought it would. One of the characters said he was trying to break the curse of the town. I honestly took this to mean that the main character may not see the benefits but that he had good intentions. He even wagered a date if she lost the fight and I was hoping some big reveal would come from this date. The story did not take that turn at all. It was sort of like Doughboy again where duality is concerned. Other things like the father lying to the daughter about her mother; the subsequent argument she has with him; the voices being the ghost of deaths past, and it all tying into race and not just being that the town leaders were plain evil seemed a little forced. Maybe I’ve read too many books and watched too many movies like this, but the lying to your child about the parent who didn’t love them and ran away plot angle is something I’m pretty numb to at this point. I honestly couldn’t bring myself into it or how the supernatural element finally played out. Beyond that, it was a well-written story and definitely something most people would enjoy but it felt a bit too ‘done before’ with the whole calling out the dates of the previously murdered in a big dramatic ending to cap off that feeling. Like The Weed, this story definitely would’ve benefited from novella length and dual POV’s so we could really dig into the villain and his comeuppance. Otherwise from the father’s reveal to the actual end, it all happened too fast to tie up everything satisfactorily.

Conclusion:

Most, if not all of these stories are well written. The earlier ones are just so much fun to read. And the overall theme of the anthology stays true to form, mostly. But as the stories get more complex the message seemed to get a little grey, almost as if the stories were more about getting bigger and looking for some sort of deeper connection. However, without the page length for that possibly would’ve read better with a more limited and direct line to the end goal. It gets three stars because it’s well written and even though for me some stories seemed to try too hard and get a little lost, chances are most people won’t dig into it like that. They’ll love it all the same. It’s definitely a book I’d recommend reading regardless of any issues I had personally with it.

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