My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve always had a problem reviewing collections like Monstrosities by Jeremy C. Shipp, mostly because I feel the need to review each story on it’s own in order to give each story its due, and not wanting to attribute a single value to the whole book.
Fortunately, Monstrosities makes this easy. Each individual piece is good and worth your time, and most of them won’t take much time at all.
As I stated, Monstrosities a short story collection, and some of these stories are very short, which makes it easy to consume this book in small bites for those who have busy schedules and not much time to read a longer and more involved story. Each story provides something different, and with Shipp, you think you know where things go until he makes a hard left turn. Or doesn’t, which keeps you guessing, which is good because keeps the reader interested wanting to find out what happens since Shipp’s work often defies prediction. The stories themselves are wonderfully weird, and despite the title and the cover, they aren’t all horror stories. It’s a true mix of genres that make one story read and feel completely different from the previous one. You’ll get horror, fantasy, science fiction, and with each one you’ll get a healthy dose of character introspection.
And that’s the very interesting thing about this book. Monstrosities is still an accurate title, but it’s not about monsters in the literal sense, or what one would expect from the cover. Instead, each story explores a person’s inner monster in different ways, as no two monsters are alike. I was not prepared for this going into it, but it was an unexpected pleasure because I happen to enjoy stories with a heavy psychological bent.
I had read one of the stories before. “Googly” was previously published in “Attic Toys,” and “Figs” was previously published in “Here Be Monsters” (which I haven’t read). So, there are some stories that readers of Shipp’s work may have come across before.
The stories are generally very good. There’s still a feeling that the author could have shored things up a bit here and there, as the reader might occasionally feel like there are a few ragged edges but can’t quite put their finger on. There are also some editing issues, which really bother me, as I’ve pointed out in previous reviews. Unfortunately, I do have to knock the book down a little for that because can pull the reader of the page, a problem in a novel or novella, but a critical error is very short stories where the author doesn’t have much time to grab the reader and pull them in.
Overall, if you’re looking for a good introduction to Shipp, you would be off to a good start with this book. The stories are short, which accommodate a busy schedule very nicely, or you can consume them all at once, and you’ll get good satisfying stories for your time.
I just wish I could figure out what Shipp’s obsession with clowns is all about. Not necessarily a complaint; just wondering…
Monstrosities by Jeremy C. Shipp earns a solid 4 clownish hands out of 5.