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One of the problems of rating an anthology is how to rate it story by story. Or as a whole. The weakness here for me is that I am simply not a huge fan horror in general. But the inclusion of the likes of Kij Johnson and Rachel Swirsky was something that would draw me no matter the genre.
Overall there were more misses than hits simply due to it not being my taste in many cases. They were well written but not engaging because of me. However there was plenty including those I mentioned that were compelling and had a nice touch to the theme in a way that I was not always expecting.
And while the weakness to an anthology as to how it rate it overall is the often varied levels of quality and style even when they are well incorporated into the general theme of the collection, it is also its strength. In today's field of speculative fiction no matter the particular niche, there seems to be something for just about everyone. And here? Several somethings for someone not particularly attracted to the genre. The theme and the stories included though do a great job of surmounting that for me. Fans of the genre I think will be even happier.
Wow, what a book. Rocked my socks! I can honestly say there isn’t a story in here that isn’t epic. Relentlessly, each of them takes you on a short journey with someone (or something); all of them hold onto you, making it almost an arduous task to stop reading. I read it, walked away, and then went back and read it again. My favorites (Dead Sea Fruit, The Emperor’s Old Bones, Six, Ghostweight, How To Talk To Girls At Parties, Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream, Never The Same, Mantis Wives, You Go Where It Takes You, and Theories of Pain) I read a third time. The thing is, it wasn’t just because each of these short stories are fan-fucking-tastic stories, but because my eyes were so glued to them the first time I read them, when done, I literally asked myself, “What the hell just happened?” I’m not exaggerating. I mean, even the Introduction to the book is great. Side note: heed its warning. It’s a must read. And for me, a must own. I will own this book; it will sit on my shelf, all pretty like, as soon as they print a hardcover. I may go out and buy a paperback just so I can send it to every person I know. I must infect the world with these outstanding pieces of literature. Thanks to anthologies like this, I’ve come to love them. I have so many authors I need to read now. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Like all anthologies, there are stories you’ll like, stories you’ll have to slog through, and stories that’ll make you go “What…did I…just….read?” The Humanity of Monsters contained only a few stories that I felt like I had to slog through, and most of those I think were simply a matter of taste over actual content and/or writing ability. There were a few that were excellent, with unique takes on classic/well-loved stories that were a delight to read.Of course there were some that also tried to do the same thing with the unique take and…failed. Horribly. Definitely a mixed bag, this anthology.
A few standouts: I think my favorites were “The Things“, “The Bread We Eat In Dreams“, and “The Ashmouth Man“. I shan’t say why I particularly liked them, because I want you to read them yourselves! “The Night They Missed The Horror Show” is perhaps the most repulsive (in terms of an anthology of horror, an apt choice) and I think guaranteed to raise a few hackles, but considering the time it’s set in, it was also disgustingly believable. “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” was definitely the weirdest of the bunch.
Overall, I think The Humanity Of Monsters has a little bit of something in it for everyone who enjoys horror and/or scifi stories, and includes some introductions to authors that I, personally, can’t wait to read more from. It has more strengths than weaknesses, and gave me a few pleasant hours.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley for review consideration.
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2015
I want to warn you that this will be a rather long post. At first I simply wanted to write a summary, an overall opinion about the whole book, but all those stories and all these authors... I'll point out the stories that fell into my memory and write a sentence or two about them, the other stories you'll just have to check for yourself.
Out of all the authors listed bellow I only read books/stories written by Neil Gaiman, so they were all new to me and therefore, reading this book was a fascinating experience.
Tasting Gomoa by Chinelo Onwualu ★★★★★
A pretty strong story to start with. It doesn't have any kind of monster you might imagine, it's all about the human nature.
The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente ★★
That was a strange story and not one I liked. It's about a demon, who was expelled from hell and is bound to live on earth in more or less human form. The Story tells you how the world around demon change how people treat it. The problem is the story is slow paced and, even though it fits the overall theme, it didn't manage to catch my interest.
The Things by Peter Watts ★★★★★
That one was great! At least after I realized it was actually re-telling of King's "The thing" only from the monsters' perspective. Well done!
Six by Leah Bobet ★★★★★
Have you heard the stories about a seventh son of a seventh son? How about any of his brothers? None right, well from this little tale you'll find out a history of the sixth son and it's not a happy one. It shows how brutally people can behave against a child who isn't the chosen one, the pupil, the golden boy. This story surprised me with its ending.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman ★★★★
This was a weird one, but I like it. It's one of those tales where you don't really know what's going on, but you still feel good reading it. Main characters goes to a party with his friend and he feels obligated to finally talk to some girls and maybe even get lucky with one of them. Only those girls are all kind of strange, they talk about weird things, like they're... not from around here...
Night They Missed the Horror Show by Joe Lansdale ★★★
How I hated all of the characters here. They were horrible racist idiots! From the first few sentences I wished all the worst for them. The problem with this story is... there are always people worse than even these idiots.
Boyfriend and Shark by Berit Ellingsen ★★★★
This was a short and peculiar tale about a man whose boyfriend is replaced by a shark and that man has to learn to let him go.
Never the Same by Polenth Blake ★★★★★
This story is lovely written and the idea is interesting. I liked where the author went with this. The main character is different than others, it seems he doesn't have feelings, instead he learned how to react like a "normal" person would, what he should do. He's an outsider, marked by society. Even if he's behavior is perfect, everyone's still watching him closely. On the other hand, there's his brother - a "normal" person, who does or wants to do evil things. How will people react?
Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by A.C. Wise ★★★
Here we have a story about a choice. A fisherman and his wife start having some strange and very vivid dreams. It seems they need to make a choice - go on with their lives just as they are now, or decide to choose a very different world.
Most of these stories are rather slow paced, philosophical. They stir up something inside you, make you think about humanity, the world and your own behavior and existence. I might've not loved all of the stories but in compilation it is a good set, not really in my domain, though that's why only 3 stars, but some of you might like it more.
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.