01/02/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Constable Robinson. 499 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84529-594-3.
check out website: www.constablerobinson.com
You would think that a 'Mammoth Book Of Monsters' would be confined to the horror genre. As it turned out, there was also a fair representation of Science Fiction with a little dash of fantasy included amongst the twenty-two stories in this anthology. Oddly, they were not confined to your typical monsters but had a range beyond what you would normally expect to see. As I dug into this book, I really wasn't sure what to expect and then some unexpected gems turned up.
Chief amongst these was 'The Shadmock' by R. Chetwynd-Haynes. If you've seen the 1980 film 'The Monster Club' then you will have heard (literally) of the Shadmock. Other than information, the two stories differ quite substantially from each other and I'm amazed that the film didn't follow this version in a more condensed fashion.
Jay Lake's 'The Fat Man' deals with the consequences of two hick hunters killing a Big Foot. Lake captures the environment and social repercussions perfectly although I was a little disappointed with how it worked out. Had he played it straight rather than played up a fantasy element at the end, it would have been an equally impressive SF story.
'Godzilla's Twelve Step Program' by Joe R. Lansdale was a hoot and a great digression from the other monster stories. Godzilla is a reformed character and attempting to stay on the straight and narrow and do his normal thing of flaming buildings and people and stamping on everything. Whether he succeeds or not, this one really is worth a chuckle as Lansdale hits on various things from the Godzilla mythos.
Robert Silverberg's 'Our Lady Of The Sauropods' was the first off-world story. A stranded woman discovers that the cloned dinosaur colony have a greater understanding of their own ecology as they accept her into their ranks. Very believable but then, you'd expect that from Silverberg.
The second off-world story was 'The Flabby Men' by Basil Cooper. A scientific investigation starts to go wrong when slime appears and creatures come out of the woodwork...all right, forests. You want them all to escape but know that isn't likely to happen.
Robert Holdstock's 'The Silvering' is set on a lone Scottish isle and a man's relationship with a colony of selkies, who shed their seal skins to loosely become human and come ashore. The story centres on him locating a selkie whom he fell in love with and who doesn't return.
Something that I ought to point out is that all the stories are very well-written, drawing you into the circumstances of the situation with interesting characters and a taster for a lot of writers whom you might not normally come across. You've got horror luminaries like Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley and Tanith Lee but then you'd expect them. Plenty for everyone and although humans aren't called monsters, the acts of some of them in the content of these stories shows they are a species to be wary of.
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