Different Beasts: J.R. McConvey
Reviewed By Steve Stred
And here I was trying to remain closed for a minute to catch up on review requests.
And then… we get offered ‘Different Beasts‘ by J.R. McConvey annnnnnnnd it comes with a blurb by Andrew Pyper. Sold.
McConvey is actually a name I’ve seen in Canadian Literature recommendations a number of times. I was excited to snap this up and devoured the twelve stories over a few sittings.
What I liked: Each of these stories had such an ease to them that I felt like I was reading an author I’d read a thousand times. McConvey’s prose was stunning and each of the twelve snippets of these worlds he introduced me too were fascinating. A large part of the draw was the Canadiana concepts that were peppered throughout. It made them feel more homegrown and “just for me.”
The collection opens with my favorite of the dozen, “How the Grizzly Came to Hang in the Royal Oak Hotel.” The story itself is straight forward. A movie is being filmed in the Royal Oak hotel. A Grizzly is brought in. Things go sideways. On the surface, this story appears as an A-B-C read, but McConvey has layered this with a number of back story pieces that heightened this one. Just phenomenal.
My other favorite of the batch was “Inquisition (Extended Mix).” This story was so stunning, but I can’t say much without giving away everything. What I will say – it’s very, very rare to read a story centred around a Skinny Puppy song.
What I didn’t like: The collection itself was fantastic. Each story was a joy, so in this case, the only thing I would suggest is that I wished several of them were novellas so that I could’ve remained in those worlds longer. Total cop-out, I know, but what’re you gonna do? Ha!
Why you should buy this: McConvey is a stunning writer. The stories themselves are snippets that feel topical while being “fiction.” The feel overall of the collection is a feeling of dread. That something is going to happen, but each one will leave you guessing.
Really, really enjoyed this release.
A bear runs amok in a luxury hotel. A daily swim at the local pool becomes a question of life or death. The champion of a border wall faces an unexpected adversary.
The twelve stories in Different Beasts ask what it means to be both human and monster. Shape-shifting waifs, haunted stuffies, scavenging drones, insectoid demon-gods, and mutant angels all come to life in this wildly imagined debut. As do broken soldiers, disgraced politicians, tired parents, ogres and children, opportunists, and desperate survivors — human beasts each struggling with the animalian aspects of their nature.
In this wild, fantastical, viscerally memorable debut, J.R. McConvey explores the power dynamics that undergird social relationships and crystallize into structures of fealty and worship, fear and control, aspiration and desire.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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