Review: Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay

Creatures: Thirty Years of MonstersCreatures: Thirty Years of Monsters by John Langan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Monsters and creatures of a wide variety are gathered together in this collection from modern classics such as Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon to older international folk classics such as Mexico’s el chupacabra and Japan’s Gashadokuro. Other stories turned to monsters in an absurdist way and yet others for allegory. The variety was nice, especially with the attempt by the editors to steer the reader toward appreciating the variety in their four micro-essays leading the anthologies sub-sections.

Perhaps the qualification of a story containing a monster was too broad, as the various styles of the 26 stories didn’t ultimately jell into a greater understanding of any certain type of monster. Without rising above its parts, I rate this anthology as equal to the average of the stories contained therein: some hits, some misses, some in between. I’ve reviewed each story contained within, but my favorite was Lisa Tuttle’s “Replacements” which earned the lone 5-star review from me. Her urban fantasy takes allegory to a new level showing the dysfunctions that can arise within a relationship. The tale gets my highest recommendation.

Eight more tales earned 4 stars and are highly recommended:

–Joe R. Lansdale’s “Godzilla’s Twelve-Step Program” is an absurdist take of the mega-monsters of the nuclear era.
–A border patrolman faces more than he bargained for with the appearance of El Chupacabra in Christopher Golden’s “Under Cover of Night”.
–Cherie Priest’s “Wishbones” smartly introduces the Japanese Gashadokuro to America.
–The horror of losing a son takes monstrous shape in Robert R. McCammon’s “The Deep End”.
–China Mieville’s “Familiar” shows a refreshingly new form of witch’s familiar.
–A Japanese horror film could be adapted from Sarah Langan’s “The Changeling”.
–Nathan Ballingrud’s “The Monsters of Heaven” is one of a few tales taking an allegorical approach to showing tension between spouses and the loss of a child–this manages both beautifully.
–Finally, “Absolute Zero” by Nadia Bulkin turns the tables by showing a young man come to terms with an absentee father and the deceased mother.

Also included are:
Barker, Clive–Rawhead Rex–3 stars
Cox, F. Brett–“The Serpent and the Hatchet Gang”–3 stars
Files, Gemma–“Blood Makes Noise”–3 stars
Johnson, Alaya Dawn–“Among Their Bright Eyes”–3 stars
Partridge, Norman–“The Hollow Man”–3 stars
Sarrantonio, Al–“The Ropy Thing”–3 stars
Shepard, Jim–“The Creature from the Black Lagoon”–3 stars
VanderMeer, Jeff–“The Third Bear”–3 stars
Barron, Laird–“Proboscis”–2 stars
Ford, Jeffrey–“After Moreau”–2 stars
Jones, Stephen Graham–“Little Monsters”–2 stars
Kelly, Michael–“The Kraken”–2 stars
Link, Kelly–“Monster”–2 stars
Schow, David J.–“Not From Around Here”–2 stars
Valentine, Genevieve–“Keep Calm and Carillon”–2 stars
Laben, Carrie–“Underneath Me, Steady Air”–1 star
Savory, Brett Alexander–“The Machine is Perfect, The Engineer is Nobody”–1 star
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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