It’s always difficult for me to review short story collections, which is why there are so very few such reviews on this blog. I don’t like to write bad reviews so short stories are a hard sell for me. With most anthologies, it seems inevitable that you’ll find 20 – 30% of the stories are good or even great stories and the rest are mediocre at best and shallow filler at worst. Then there are those few, extremely rare editors who seem incapable of curating a bad story. Ellen Datlow is such an editor. THE MONSTROUS is a newly reprinted addition to a resume that could fill a novel length manuscript. It’s also another home run for Datlow.
Pardon me while I wax star-struck for a moment here. Over the course of the last three decades–plus a little, maybe–It’s quite likely that I’ve read every anthology Ellen Datlow has produced. I’ve watched her grow and I’ve seen her change directions as either opportunity or desire presented itself. But what I’ve never seen her do is curate a bad story. Ellen is a rock star editor with an eye for the best stories and the best talent in the business. That quality has been consistent across everything she’s published and it remains so with THE MONSTROUS.
When she put out the call for THE MONSTROUS, Ellen Datlow said she was “…looking for unusual monster stories. Not your usual monster kills/destroys everything.” The authors who responded to the call did so admirably. The result is a collection of monster stories completely unlike any you’ve read before, written by such authors as Peter Straub, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, and many others. And the anthology is as diverse and well written as it is star-studded. The stories gathered here range from the visceral to the psychological, making pit stops at all points in between and never falling into the “normal”, somewhat tired tropes of vampires, werewolves, zombies and such. That’s not saying there aren’t one or two traditional type monsters, and even some human ones in here. I’m just saying that where they exist, they’re written with an unusual, unique flare or twist.
There are no bad stories, no filler in THE MONSTROUS. Every story is written with mastery and the kind of originality and attention to detail that gets you into a Datlow anthology in the first place. If I had to name a favorite, I would be hard pressed to do so and I’m not going to attempt that here. Suffice it to say, THE MONSTROUS was one of the best two themed anthologies of 2015 in my opinion and another example of why it’s always safe to take a chance on Ellen Datlow.
Note: THE MONSTROUS is on my list of favorite reads for 2015 if you’d like to check that out (under the Anthologies and Collections heading.)
THE MONSTROUS Synopsis:
“Superstar editor Datlow makes no missteps….”
Take a terrifying journey with literary masters of suspense, including Peter Straub, Kim Newman, and Caitlín R. Kiernan, visiting a place where the other is somehow one of us. These electrifying tales redefine monsters from mere things that go bump in the night to inexplicable, deadly reflections of our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s a seemingly devoted teacher, an obsessive devotee of swans, or a diner full of evil creatures simply seeking oblivion, the monstrous is always there—and much closer than it appears.
About the Ellen Datlow:
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters,Fearful Symmetries, Nightmare Carnival, The Cutting Room, and The Doll Collection.
She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards. To learn more about Ellen and her work, visit her web page or follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ellendatlow.