Not Your Average Monster {Anthology}

One of the things I love most about being a reviewer is that I get to talk to so many different people all over the country – and even people outside the country. I was talking with author Pete Kahle recently and he told me that he had started a publishing house called Bloodshot Books. I told him that if he needed any reviews, to let me know. He passed along a Kindle copy of Not Your Average Monster! A Bestiary of Horrors, along with some of the other titles. Along with the book came a warning about his story, which is featured last in the anthology. He told me that it was a gross-out. I don’t really think that was an adequate description! (To my absolute horror, I found myself attempting to eat while reading it, because I didn’t want to put the anthology down. Without giving too many spoilers, I’m really struggling with the thought of eating rice any time in the next month or so!)

{Before I go into the review proper, I want to make sure that my readers are aware if they want to read Bloodshot Books, they can either borrow them on Amazon.com with Kindle Unlimited or purchase them from Amazon.com in digital or traditional format.}

Not Your Average Monster is a page-turner filled with talent. I know I said a few paragraphs up that I love anthologies, but don’t let that weaken my claim. The monsters contained in the pages of this anthology defy title. The only other time I’ve encountered a lamia in horror literature or cinema was Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Kahle managed to find not one, but TWO lamia in one story.

The remaining monsters in this tome don’t have a name. They seem to be pulled right from the shared human subconscious, from the days where we were little more than primitives scratching stick figures in caves by firelight. The monsters Kahle has collected come for you in sunlight, in darkness, but always with teeth and deadly intent. I’m not afraid to admit that they scared me so badly that I had nightmares. But you know, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly which monster did it. Was it the horrible two-legged beasts rampaging through a school as a little girl tries desperately to hide? Or the boojum, a nasty sort of beastie that one girl must defeat using the advice of the Parliament of cats, before it can come back and finish the job it started? Or the story of the family in the tunnel, who survive a horrific pile-up only to find themselves fighting shapeless monsters? Maybe it was the parasite hidden deep within a cave, stumbled on by some friends reliving their wilder days. It could have been the spirits summoned by human hatred and bloodlust to the carnage of a battlefield, to claim souls for their own.

Truth be told, I think it was all of them. There wasn’t a single weak story in this entire anthology, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what horrors lurk within. I don’t want to rob any readers of the terror and surprise waiting for them in Not Your Average Monster! A Bestiary of Horrors.

There is a second volume, Not Your Average Monster, Vol. 2: A Menagerie of Vile Beasts, which you better believe is high up on my to-read list! There are two main reasons I’m not jumping right into the second volume. Firstly, the stories are like a horror buffet. I don’t want to run through it all at once. Secondly, I’m well and spoiled for other anthologies, probably for the rest of my life. This is hands-down one of the best anthologies I’ve ever read. And, well, I lied, there’s three reasons. Kahle has not confirmed the intent to publish a third volume (to the best of my knowledge). I don’t want to go through everything now and be left like an addict without a fix.

Oh, and if you’re stuck for what to get mom for Mother’s Day? Well, here you go! Volume 1 and 2 make great gifts for your favorite horror hounds! Or for yourself, if you’re looking to sample the work of several extremely talented authors all in one place.

When is the sequel?

the specimenRecently I had the pleasure of reading Peter Kahle‘s The Specimen. I had no idea what I was in for based on the cover of the book – a strange fetus floating in amber fluid, all surrounded by emerald green background. Out of focus are other specimen jars, but it’s more of a tease as you can’t see whats in them. The book itself is (thankfully) thick, and the author has included a list in the front with all of the principal characters, what time period they belong to, and enough information on each to more than jog the reader’s memory. Kahle writes about several characters, and is very adept at switching locations, time periods, and characters without missing a beat.

Kahle’s writing is reminiscent of John W. Campbell, who ¬†wrote Who Goes There? (later made into John Carpenter’s The Thing). It’s smart, sassy, and scary as hell. It follows in the footsteps of the aforementioned sci-fi titan, because once again humans are being attacked by an alien presence, and can’t seem to gain a foothold in fighting it off. Only in Kahle’s work, the humans gain benefits from their symbiotic relationship – better health and charisma are only a few. In most cases, this leaves the Host willing to participate, and unwilling to part. In a few instances, however, the aliens misjudge their steeds, and wind up saddling an unwilling host with a dominant personality. The aliens, or Riders, can also create armies of enslaved creatures called Thrall to serve them. But that’s enough of a teaser because the best details are still yours to read.

As for the characters themselves – they range. There’s one girl in particular who could give any serial killer a run for their money – while at the same time looking like a mix of a porn star and Miss America. There’s the steed that won’t let go because he doesn’t want another poor soul to have to shoulder his burden. And the doctor who recklessly experiments with the alien tissue, to the detriment of the human race. And the Riders themselves. Full of hate, vengenace, violence. But nothing of the good qualities of humanity.

The Specimen is a great read. Kahle is very skilled at managing several characters at once – as well as several time periods. He seamlessly shifts between modern day and other time periods, weaving in the culture of the Riders with the events of our world. At times, it’s hard to remember that it’s a fictional book! Frankly, I would love to see The Specimen made into a movie, or a series on TV. I’m getting a little tired of all of the supernatural mystery shows out there (and come later this fall there will be more!). I’m ready for a good old-fashioned alien sci-fi show!

(Hint hint: the ending suggests that there may be a sequel coming, so get started NOW!)