Richard Newby’s first horror collection is a book nine years in the making. The first story (“Monster Truck”) was written in 2012 and Newby has made the interesting choice of presenting each story chronologically, in the order in which they were written. It makes for interesting reading when there is the added factor of chronicling a writer’s development and growth over such a long period.
I was surprised, therefore, to find that a lot of my favorite stories were spread over a pretty wide cross-section of the book’s ten short stories. In fact, I found the whole book to be both consistent and cohesive. Newby’s introduction demonstrates an interest in both fairy tales and real word societal issues and a lot of his stories use wildly imaginative and outlandish ideas and imagery to tell very real stories about people and their experiences, whether they be regarding somebody’s appearance, race, beliefs or just their feelings about the world they live in.
The opening story (“Monster Truck”) is a great example and a strong opener. It features classic monsters (vampires, werewolves, sirens) who have fallen on hard times and don’t feel particularly relevant anymore, a fact that becomes especially apparent when they meet a man who is a true monster. A lot of the stories have a great hook or original idea behind them, which is then used to examine an element of our lives that Newby finds interesting. “Soundstage Earth” is humorous, but a simultaneously melancholy and disturbing tale of a world where people are forced to play a part in a long ongoing movie without an end. “Doughboy” tells a story of a manmade creature built to imitate the people around it, and its introduction into a selfish, self-absorbed middle-class family of overachievers has some interesting outcomes. I thoroughly enjoyed the unbridled creativity at work, but the extra layer of subtext and social commentary was definitely an added bonus.
My favorite story was perhaps the most unusual. “Madge, the World Spider, and One Last Drink” is exactly as odd as you would expect based on the title, a mix of grim reality, heightened fantasy and existential horror, it was both memorable and relatable, with an unpredictable set-up and an underlying message that will speak to a lot of readers. The books closing tale (“Black Bone Pit”), both the most recent and the longest story in the collection, was another stand-out. Generations spanning short about a small town mired in racial divide, anchored by a fantastic lead character, and boasting a simultaneously satisfying, challenging and scary ending, it was a fantastic story to wrap up a wonderful book. Every story here more than justifies its inclusion and even those I enjoyed less (“War Mother” has some incredible imagery and memorable moments) are simply victims of the success of those that bookend it, by simply being solid, well-told stories, nothing more or less.
We Make Monsters Here is a stellar collection of outstanding stories that both work as pieces of pure entertainment, but contain depths that reward those willing to dig a little deeper. I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait another nine years for a follow-up!
We Make Monsters Here by Richard Newby
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A collection of 21st century crises, We Make Monsters Here focuses on the dark twists of fate that takes hold in the pursuit of identity and belonging.
DescriptionIn a country built on dreams, nightmares swell beneath the surface. Monsters face job insecurity in a new age. A group of former friends gather for one last game. A pizza delivery driver’s search for the ultimate high becomes an odyssey in body horror. Romance blossoms between a DJ and a woman who wants to be dinner. A soldier returns home from war but isn’t what he seems. The lessons learned at a family dinner have bloody consequences. History darkens the present as an underground boxing match leads a young woman to a path of destruction. These stories and more sift through the pieces of 21st century American wreckage as the pursuit for identity and belonging take dark twists of fate. Discover what we’ve sown in this place we call home. Discover what happens when a society based on winning ultimately loses. Discover the truth, that above all else, We Make Monsters Here.
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