Reading Room: In Your Closet and In Your Head: A Monster Anthology – published by Steve Beaulieu

Book Title: In Your Closet and In Your Head: A Monster Anthology

Authors: Michael Bunker, Nick Cole, Aaron Hall, Steve Beaulieu, Jason Anspach, M. G. Herron, A.K. Meek, Martin T. Ingham & Kevin G. Summers.

Foreword: Todd Barselow

Publication Date: April 14, 2017

Available onAmazon as an eBook and as a paperback

Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

What makes a monster and how do we define what one is? Do we judge them based on their looks alone or by their actions, however they repugnant they might be to our sensibilities?

It starts with an insightful foreword by Todd birdplaneBarselow talking about working with each of these authors in this unique anthology. From there, read more about these nine gripping stories that will engage your imagination as you read them with a diverse mixture of monster tales, starting with:

Michael Bunker’s “The Night of the Bunnyman” – Mark is a reporter, pursuing some leads about the legend of The Bunnyman, an escaped psychopath who was never found. As he investigates each little clue, he thinks he’s getting closer to finding him. Will he survive to tell the tale?

The mood is tense, with every scene building up to the climax. And when we hit it, it is so horrific and so terrifying, it felt epically cinematic. Goosebumps broke out along my arms as it played out from there, with a masterful and unexpected twist.

Nick Cole’s “Final Entrance” – Charlie was a renowned tenor, with a tragic past that brutally cut his opera career short. As we learn the details of how that happened and who did it, we endure his pain like it was our own. But how does his story end?

An enrapturing tale of love gone wrong, wrapped in engrossing storytelling and profound thought that placed me right into the protagonist’s mind and his feelings of anguish.

svv2Aaron Hall & Steve Beaulieu’s “The Farmer’s Daughter” – Eichard is an old farmer on a distant planet, bringing his harvest to market for a crucial trip he must take. Installing the new shipbrain, his only companion, he’s reminded of his sorrowful past. But what happens when his plan is derailed?

It drew me deep into Eichard’s mindset, his gut-wrenching sadness and created suspense with each surprising twist. I found it to be an absorbing tale that grabbed me as it peeled back each complicated layer with its protagonist and his dilemma.

Jason Anspach’s “Tier One Thousand” – Nineteen-year-old Cody is a gamer and a geek who’s recruited by the military for a job only a select few can handle. Brought out into the wilderness to fight something deadly and inhuman, his skills are put to the test.

Self-referential and laden with fantastic pop-culture references and funny one-liners, this story nevertheless has a serious and unique threat behind it as Cody and his comrades are thrown in over their heads. As I learned the nature of this threat, I laughed even as I wanted to know more. It’s an imaginative weaving of geek culture and gruesome threats rolled into one. It’s also an effective palette cleanser from the previous darker tales before it.

M. G. Herron’s “Low Desert, High Mountain, Big svv3Lizard” – In the post-apocalyptic world left after an alien invasion, a group of humans survives in an abandoned power plant. But when Das encounters a venom-spewing basilisk out in the desert, things go awry quickly!

This is a poignant but tense tale about a creature whose motives are misunderstood and the power of group thinking in the face of facts. I felt my throat slaked with thirst being in the desert and felt sympathy for the creature as it was following its instincts, however destructive they might have been.

Aaron Hall & Steve Beaulieu’s “A Good Old Fashioned Murder” – Riffraff is a magical creature who is also a time-traveling assassin (!). Armed with powerful spells, his job is to save the universe! But when he fails in his mission, he has just one more chance to get it right.

The sheer inventiveness on display in this tale is dizzying, stupefying in its organized chaos and ludicrously funny while also retaining a serious tone due to the high stakes. I held my breath with each increasingly crazy twist the authors threw in there, right up to that unexpected and astounding ending.

A.K. Meek’s “Re: evolution And the Radiant Machine” – Doctor Gleason is the selected candidate to transfer his consciousness from his decaying body into a specially modified robot. Bernard is a former Dynamo employee who feels the need for vengeance on his former employer by trying to damage Gleason’s programming.

svv4Equal parts haunting, startling and disturbing at the events that transpire, I was riveted to this tale as it unspooled right through to its grisly and unpredictable ending. The author’s experience in capturing the essence of robots and their impact on humanity continues here, with a sly subversiveness that lies under the surface of this tale combined with a thoughtful exploration of the definition of a soul in an artificial construct.

Martin T. Ingham’s “Monsters in Our Midst” – Brex is in the military, unexpectedly happening upon a young creature that’s friendly. However, the creature is of the same monstrous species that is viciously attacking his planet! Abandoning his people to protect his friend, they go on the run trying to survive.

A poignant tale of two friends who can’t communicate verbally but still develop a special bond. It also makes us question who and what truly defines what a monster is, with a thoughtful examination of this theme with an utterly brilliant twist.

Kevin G. Summer’s “Precious in Thy Sight” – Galen is a musician struggling with an evil demon in his head, one that won’t go away and compels him to commit heinous acts. Over the years, the struggle gets more difficult and he tries to resist. But when it becomes too difficult, what will happen next?

It’s an enveloping story of a man trying to do right but slowly descends into madness as he loses hope. As the story reaches its crescendo, it becomes a heart-wrenching battle for Galen’s soul that makes you want to look away due to the horror of what’s going on. But you can’t, as I was drawn into what Galen’s fate would be, with a transformative and powerful ending that I never anticipated.

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes in this svv5anthology. Usually, an anthology like this stays within the horror genre and can be limited by the definitions that come with it. But here, each one crosses genres with its variety of tales, from science fiction to horror and even to gamer fiction and magical realism, as well as battles of good versus evil.

There are monsters of a human variety from those who commit murder based on sheer malevolence and immorality. There are also literal monsters in the form of creatures from other planets, from under the ground or in the form of artificial intelligence, challenging our perceptions as to what makes one.

The monsters are not always apparent in this anthology, which is part of what makes this collection so innovative and out of the ordinary. It’s a highly creative and triumphant book that compels you to turn the pages with stories that defy expectations and transport you to wondrous and wicked worlds where monsters come in all shapes and sizes. You will find that they will linger in your mind long after you finished reading them, eerily filling your nightmares with their tales.

If you found this review to be helpful to you, please click here to go to the review on Amazon. Then navigate to the bottom of this review and click on the “helpful” button.

Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about anthologies published by Steve Beaulieu include “It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane!: A Superhero Anthology” and “World Domination: A Supervillain Anthology“.

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