I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies, particularly those with a theme. Monsters Exist ticks that box nicely by having 14 tales all about Monsters. I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading this book, something which may be of benefit as I would then have no expectations based on previous reading experience.
There are not many anthologies I’ve read that have had a 100% hit rate. In fact from memory there are 2, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and my current book of the year, Richard Chizmar’s A Long December. Monsters Exist is incredibly close to having all its tales hitting the spot, and I really do mean incredibly close. There were so many positives crammed within it’s 148 pages, it was a blast discovering what Monsters Exist!
Monsters Exist opens with Master Vermin by Wallace Boothill, a tale about rats in Baltimore. I loved how this had me shuddering at a couple of superb ‘yuck’ moments and then totally surprised at it’s somewhat epic ending. Theresa Braun’s Legend Trippers takes us into one of my favourite sub-genres, the urban legend. Here we have a tale about the Goatman who lures its victims in front of an oncoming train. It’s a great story that was well paced. S.J. Budd gave us a tale about a woman who climbs into the back of a taxi who’s driver has a dark secret in The Murder Of Crows. I really enjoyed the writing and the ending was very satisfying. Wicked Congregation by Gary Buller is one of the standout tales in the anthology for me! A shocking tale of fairies and human sacrifice. Echoes of Adam Nevill in the story’s setting and an ending that would grace Tales Of The Unexpected at its peak. I have to add, there’s a line in Wicked Congregation that really stood out for me ‘Every 20 years they take a little of our future so we may keep the rest’ Fantastic writing! Playing Dead by S.E. Casey is a dark tale about the devil monkey where you’re never quite sure what’s real or not. Superb! Mr. Deadmans Lake Monster has sublime characterisation and punchy dialogue. Just what would it take for Gary to believe in the Goat Man? Another standout tale is Calvin Demmer’s Never Sleep Again, a clever use of the old monster under the bed trope. I for one won’t be dangling hands or feet over the edge of the bed…or futon! I let out a sigh of relief at one point during Philip W. Kleaver’s The Voice From The Bottom Of The Well, the author had me convinced Johanna was going to do something quite terrible only for the rug to be pulled out from under me. I really enjoyed this tale with its smile inducing ending. Eclipse At Wolf Creek is another well written urban legend tale, this time involving the Mothman. To be honest, I may have found Sylvia Mann’s descriptions of poor old Grandma the most disturbing part of the story. No. 7 by William Marchese has moments of excellence with a tale of ‘super’ soldiers crossing paths with a bunch of kids. I did struggle with the tale to be honest, and even reread it in case I had missed something. There’s a cracking story here, the author himself holds his hands up in this honest post that things could have been better. I’d be very interested to read any rework that appears in the future. A variant on the Bigfoot legend is the next tale in John Palisano’s Criatura. This is a deliciously gory story that I had great fun reading. There’s a wonderful sense of humour in the writing, with the line ‘maybe because it was sticking out and is the easiest target’ earning a genuine laugh. If spiders aren’t your thing then Bitten by Christopher Powers is going to make for an unpleasant reading experience. To add to your pain these spiders are the size of dogs, and in one scene (that had me proper squirming) the description of a spider ‘probing and pushing into an ear deep enough to cause blood to seep out’ is wrong on so many levels. Christopher Powers, I salute you! Kelpies by Leo X. Robertson is an unusual tale about a man lured into the water by a mysterious seductress. Any fellas may think twice about any ‘momentary wavering’ after reading this excellent piece of dark fiction. Lastly, in the final tale Bloodstream Revolution M.R. Tapia writes an engrossing tale involving Chupacabras in the time of the Mexican revolution. I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to Monsters Exist especially as it convinced me that it is actually humans that are the true monsters.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I was not familiar with any of the authors prior to reading. Now that I have finished the book, I’ll be looking out for each and every one of them in the future. Monsters Exist is a superb read with a variety of styles that works as a collective. I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Star Rating (out of 5): 4****
Monsters Exist is edited by Mr. Deadman & Theresa Braun and published by Deadman’s Tome