Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Review: Monstrous - 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror edited by Ryan C. Thomas

Remember the golden years of giant monsters? When everything from giant insects, giant people, giant rodents, giant spiders, giant aliens and giant monsters rampaged across the cinematic landscape? While most of these films from the ’50s don’t hold up today (some didn’t even hold up back then!), I think that something ginormous overtaking Earth and usurping humans’ place at the top of the food chain is still a fear ingrained in all of us.

Which is why Permuted Press’ new anthology, Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror works so well! The 20 tales strike fear and awe into the reader and transport them back to a time of drive-in theaters that showed giant monster movies. The anthology recreates this feeling of nostalgia so well, in fact, that while reading your mind acts as a projector and the stories play out like flickering old black and white movies in your head.

Editor Ryan C. Thomas has done a fantastic job compiling the best and most diverse giant creature tales and never once does the book feel repetitive or boring. On the contrary, I could barely put Monstrous down once I started reading! I am also glad to see Permuted Press expanding beyond their tried and true zombie anthologies. It is quite a treat to get something so different from them!

All of the short stories are stellar, and while there aren’t any that I didn’t enjoy, there are a handful that really stood out to me. My favorite would probably have to be The Cove by Gregory L. Norris. It combined elements from crime capers, government conspiracies and cover-ups, treasure hunting and giant monsters into a nail-biting tale. In it, two thieves on the lam head to an isolated stretch of coast that isn’t on any maps…but for very good reason. For what comes out of the ocean is much more terrifying than the goons after them or the government operatives that try to stop their progress.

Other favorites include: A Plague From the Mud by Aaron Polson (editor of anthology Tainted) where giant beetles invade an Oregon logging town, Present Tense, Future Imperfect by D.L. Snell (author of Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines) that deals with time travel, giant insects and saving the world, Attack of the 500 Foot Porn Star by Steven L. Shrewsbury that is just as outrageous as it sounds, Keeping Watch by Nate Kenyon, a creepy story about something evil lurking in the dark depths of a lake, The Long Dark Submission by Paul Stuart about fishermen who remain submerged in the ocean for months looking for a specific fish but instead come face-to-face with a terrifyingly large monstrosity, Extinction by Evan Dicken, a tale set in Medieval times where dragons are pitted against each other and machines for sport, Gone Fishin’ by John R. Platt that finds a farmer damming a river to spite his neighbors but ends up trapping a bloodthirsty monster and Six-Legged Shadows by David Conyers and Brian M. Sammons where explorers return to Earth after living in space for many hundreds of years only to find that everything is giant-sized.

Monstrous is a delight to read, combining the nostalgia of ’50s giant creature movies with modern-day science, storytelling and twists! As you can see, the stories offer much variety and even though I can’t mention them all, every single one was is worthwhile to read. What horror fan can resist giant ants, towering porn stars, huge crabs, hulking felines, gigantic fish and other larger-than-life creepy crawlies?  Monstrous comes highly recommended!

Available from Amazon!

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