Friday, September 1, 2017

Monsters Exist, a horror anthology – Book Review

Monsters Exist is a collection of 14 short stories from the worlds of horror and often the dark paranormal, written by a great assortment of horror-writing authors, most of whose names already strike fear in the reader! "Kleaver, Buller, Demmer, Deadman…"

"Master Vermin" by Wallace Boothill 
The anthology opens with an interesting piece that is different from what you'd define as horror. There is a significant bit of well-fitted gross descriptions in this story. I liked the suspense and how the ending was unexpected. It gives you a different kind of scary; a creepy thought rather than simply a scary story.
Rating: 3.75 stars.

"Legend Trippers" by Theresa Braun
"Like a clogged water pipe finally bursting, the images materialised."

My second read for Braun, the story is about a mythological horned-creature called the "Goatman", who supposedly "lure[s] victims to their death, straight into an oncoming train." A reporter trails a man called Jaxon because, the reporter believes, has seen the Goatman, but Jaxon doesn't know what he's seen. Jaxon teams up with a waitress to find out what happened to her sister near the area where an accident had happened at an earlier time.
The pace is slow at first and towards the middle, then picks up and makes for a good ending.
There are many quote-worthy bits and I love Braun's use of imagery.  
Rating: 4 stars.

"The Murder of Crows" by S.J. Budd
"He felt death's close proximity that night, and this time it was coming for him."
Barry, a taxi driver, has taken to killing a woman each night, for three nights in a row, until one woman gets into his car and his whole life changes.
I loved the start, middle, and flow of this story but felt the ending was abrupt. I like the paranormal aspect, but felt that the main character or the author, or both, wanted to get the story over with.
After a second reading, I'd give this story a 4-star rating.

"Wicked Congregation" by Gary Buller
"Wicked Congregation" is simply a wicked – pun intended - story! I loved it!
One of the best stories in the anthology, Buller's piece takes an abandoned chapel for a setting. Narrated from the first person perspective of a High Peak Ranger, "Wicked Congregation" is about a remote town where Rangers have to make a sacrifice every two decades or all hell will break loose.
"Every twenty years they take a piece of our future so we may keep the rest."
The flow, writing style and the suspense was well done.
Rating: 5 stars

"Playing Dead" by S.E. Casey
I like Casey's choice of setting in this short story. I felt the story was a bit long, but I liked it
Set in a carnival, Casey had me guessing throughout the story what the horror would be and what would happen. The story has this strong opening: "Under the golden eye of Saturn, the only celestial light visible in the pre-night sky, the field vomited up a monstrosity."
Rating: 4 stars.

"Lake Monster" by Mr. Deadman
"The air was chilly and quiet, like a morgue, the sort of quiet that puts a keen emphasis on every sound, no matter how insignificant."
Paranormal or not paranormal? This story keeps you guessing till the end. It's a bit different from the rest and there's a bit of comedy embedded in and some beautiful images. I truly enjoyed this one and didn't know what to think or expect throughout.
Rating: 5 stars.

"Never Sleep Again" by Calvin Demmer
Sleep? Who wants to sleep? Definitely not me. Especially after reading this story!
Another paranormal piece, I like that "Never Sleep Again" mixes mystery with creepy. I don’t want to give anything else away. You just have to read it (yes I changed the font colour for emphasis).
Rating: 5 stars.

"The Voice from the Bottom of the Well" by Philip W. Kleaver
Smart, wicked, and creepy are the first words that come to mind when I read this piece by Kleaver. And "Damn brilliant". Short stories with children tend to be creepier than anything and Kleaver nailed it with "The Voice from the Bottom of the Well". His word choice and flow kept me on edge. I was terrified.
When reading this short story, I covered my ears in the hopes that I won't be horrified, like I do when watching scary movies.
Taking this story to a full length novel may also be plausible and it would make for a freaky scary movie.
Rating: 5 stars.

"Eclipse at Wolfcreek" by Sylvia Mann
The story opens with a statement and reiteration of the anthology title "Monsters exist." It then moves to naming the three types of monsters. My only problem with this story was that I felt there was some strong scientific jargon.
Narrated from the perspective Buddy, the story is a tackles creepy differently as we get the description of Buddy's grandmother (you'll love her but she'll freak you out) and the setting. A house in the middle of nowhere. Buddy and his friend Prez go out hunting out of season in the woods near Buddy's home. Suffice to say, they should have listened to Buddy's grandma.
Rating: 4.5 stars

"No. 7" by William Marchese
"No. 7" is an interesting piece mixing science fiction with the paranormal. There were some confusing parts during the confrontation but overall I enjoyed the story and the narration. It's not as scary as the rest but definitely worth reading.
Rating: 3.5 stars

"Criatura" by John Palisano
With lots of dark humour, "Criatura" is a must-read scary and fairly gory story. Stranded in the middle of the desert at night, the narrator, Chuck, stumbles upon a creature that was only a myth told to children. I liked the way Palisano gave the reader background information about the "Criatura".
Rating: 4.5 stars

"Bitten" by Christopher Powers
I couldn't pinpoint the era/timeline in which "Bitten" was set; it could be anything, though it felt like the 60's or 70's. I like how Powers weaved a story within a story, merging them at the end.
Rating: 4.5 stars

"Kelpies" by Leo X. Robertson
Like "Master Vermin", this story isn't scary in terms of the content but the idea, it just leaves you thinking "DAMN!" "No!"
It's one of the best pieces in Monsters Exist. It makes you wonder who the 'monster' is here. I thought the description of the kelpies was a little – too – weird though. Still, I kept thinking about the story several days after I finished it.
Rating: 5 stars

"Bloodstream Revolution" by M.R. Tapia
The conclusion to the anthology, Tapia's "Bloodstream Revolution" has a historical fiction feel to it along with a little gory-paranormal. Reminiscent of the "survival of the fittest" idea, the story has a heartbreaking beginning. I could picture every single event quite well in this story.
Rating: 4.5 stars

Normally, it's hard to judge a full anthology or short story collection as there tend to be pieces that you dislike or like less than others. But the authors in the Monsters Exist anthology produced quality scary stories. Some I felt were a bit gory, there was significant profanity (fine with me but just mentioning that). What they all did was border on the dark side of the paranormal.

I must say I enjoyed the different settings, ideas, and overall assortment of scary tales in this book.

(Note to readers: There is adult content and cursing in the book)
Overall rating for Monsters Exist: 5 stars!

It is the perfect read for Halloween.

Note: I received a free copy of Monsters Exist from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Monsters Exist via Amazon USAmazon UK.

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