Transwarp Tuesday! Menace of the Monster edited by Mike Ashley

They’re all around us!

In his introduction, Mike Ashley reminds us that there have always been monsters, from the Hydra and Minotaur of the Greeks, through the giants and ogres of fairy tales, to the more futuristic monsters of our own generation. This anthology contains fourteen stories mostly from the first half of the twentieth century, ranging from the evolution-inspired monsters left in remote places of the earth from the dinosaur era, to the monsters emerging from the unexplored ocean deeps, to the aliens from other worlds wandering among us, as friend or foe. No supernatural monsters here – these are all “real” monsters; that is, theoretically they were all possible at least at the time the stories were written.

Menace of the Monster
edited by Mike Ashley

Monsters are not my favourite form of either science fiction or horror fiction so it’s perhaps not surprising that I didn’t enjoy this anthology quite as much as some of the others I’ve been reading recently. It is, however, a nicely varied selection with some intriguing inclusions, such as an abridged version of The War of the Worlds written by HG Wells himself for a magazine, and the story of King Kong, produced as an abridgement of the movie and credited to Edgar Wallace although it’s not clear how much he actually contributed. As stories I didn’t rate either of these highly, but I still enjoyed reading them as interesting bits of sci-fi history. Overall I gave about half of the stories either 4 or 5 stars, while the rest rated pretty low for me, I’m afraid. But they may well work better for people who enjoy monsters more.

Here’s a brief idea of some of the ones I enjoyed most:

De Profundis by Coutts Brisbane – a nicely scary story about killer ants which I used in a previous Tuesday Terror! post.

Discord in Scarlet by AE van Vogt – a longer story, about 40 pages, this tells of an alien space being that encounters a human space ship far from Earth. At first the humans are thrilled to find a new life form but it soon turns out that the alien is not looking to make new friends! This is very well done, and reminded me very much of an episode of Star Trek – not specifically, but in style.

Resident Physician by James White – space again, but this time set in a galactic hospital which caters for all kinds of life forms, as both staff and patients. A new patient has arrived – a form of life the staff have never before encountered. It is unconscious and is thought to have eaten its only ship-mate! The physician must find a way to treat it, while the authorities must determine whether eating a ship-mate is a crime, or maybe a normal part of this alien’s culture. Very well written and imaginative, this one is also highly entertaining, while gently examining the question of how to legislate for cultural differences.

Personal Monster by Idris Seabright – a little girl has discovered a monster living in the ash-pit in her yard. The monster is only small as yet, but it’s growing, and it forces the little girl to feed it. She’s scared of it, but she’s also too scared to tell her parents about it because they’re very strict and she’s a bit scared of them too. I loved this story – the author very quickly made me care about the girl and it all gets pretty creepy. The description of the monster is also rather vague, which makes it even scarier. I’d rather battle King Kong than deal with this one!

So some real gems in the collection which made it well worth the reading time invested. Having pulled together my favourites, I see the ones I liked best are mostly the space alien stories and I think that shows that my personal preference is definitely weighting my ratings here, since I’ve always preferred that kind of monster to the monster from the deep or the dinosaur. But there’s plenty of variety for people who prefer more earth-based monsters too. And as always, the introduction is an added bonus – well written, informative and entertaining.

Little Green Men Rating: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

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35 thoughts on “Transwarp Tuesday! Menace of the Monster edited by Mike Ashley

  1. Every now and then during lunch hour in the office, I hope over to Archive.org and read a classic science fiction or horror story. I’m glad there’s such a lot of old fiction in the public domain. I enjoy reading sf though I’d prefer reading most of it in paper book form.

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    • I read quite a lot of horror stories online, but I much prefer them in book form too, especially if they have an introduction and some extras about the authors and so on. I’m glad there are so many anthologies coming out now. I really prefer vintage sci-fi to contemporary stuff. 😀

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  2. Nope, not for me I’m afraid. Monsters just bore me for some reason. I remember you telling us about the one with the ants though, and it genuinely sounded quite frightening.

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    • Yes, the “possible” ones like ants work much better for me than the giant lizard type of story. But space aliens work best because there’s so much room for authors to use their imagination in them and they’re usually more than just killing monsters and screaming women…

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  3. If I’m being honest, FictionFan, monsters aren’t my sort of thing, either. I don’t think this collection would be for me, although I am glad you found some things to like about it. But, hey, nothing is for every reader, is it? And I do appreciate the authors’ invitation to speculate on, ‘what might happen if….’

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    • Yes, it’s good that they collect them in this way because it makes it easy for a reader to know which ones are likely to appeal. The companion ones on technology and time travel were more to my taste. But some of these were fun – the joy of an anthology is that it’s rare not to find at least a few that you like. 😀

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  4. Actually, this one sounds good. 😋 Your description of “Personal Monster” intrigued me. i can’t help thinking of movies like ALIENS and SIGNS, not to mention the cheesy 1950s monster films like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON–movies I grew up on. None of the monsters were scary. It was fun to watch them lumbering around.

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    • Funnily enough the AE von Vogt story that I mentioned, Discord in Scarlet, is thought to have maybe influenced the writers of Alien. Apparently he sued them for plagiarism, but they denied it, however they settled out of court.

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    • I love space aliens – too much time spent watching Star Trek in my youth clearly! 😉 Yes, the good thing about anthologies is that there are nearly always some stories that make it worthwhile reading.

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  5. I have to be in a special frame of mind to enjoy reading monster stories, but I too gravitate to the space monsters more than the others. I think that’s because there’s still a lot of the unknown about space, while we all know dinosaurs and such are currently extinct!

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  6. As you know, this anthology is sitting at the top of my TBR. In fact, I would be reading it right now if it hadn’t gotten bumped at the last second for a different sci-fi story (which has a sequel, so might get bumped even further down).

    I’m fine with monsters (in sci-fi, not horror), so I’m really looking forward to reading it. Glad you managed to enjoy some of the stories.

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    • If you enjoy monsters, then I think you’ll really enjoy this! Although it’s not my favourite of the anthologies, there were still plenty that I liked enough to make it worthwhile, and a few that I loved. Let me know what you think of it when you read it! 😀

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  7. Love that little green men rating. The story about the hospital in space sounds the most intriguing for sure-I love the idea of ‘eating one’s shipmate’ could be a normal part of our/some other culture some day 🙂

    Personally, I find monsters from the deep sea the scariest, because there are so many things we haven’t discovered in the ocean yet, and it’s all right here on earth with us!!!

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