Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Review

With a name like Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem, you are sending a very clear mission statement to the world.
You best sack up and deliver on all 3, or you’re gonna have big problems, man.
I wanna see some variety in crazy critters, talk of the movin’ pictures, and some chaos and/or pandemonium!
Does this collection of creepy creatures and calamitous carnage come through?
Let’s find out, gang!

As is always the case in these reviews, this here is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The first thing I have to point out, or confirm rather, is something KJA specifically told me in our interview in Part 1 of Ep 100 (find it Here or where ever you get your podcasts), and that is that this collection has a healthy mix of all types of monsters, there’s really no chasing of trends or attempts to cash in on any current horror fads that I can detect.
There’s Dragons, and Zombies, and Ghosts, OH MY!
But also Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Aliens, weird beings that exist outside of our known laws of physics and logic, and more.
So on one of the three points I mentioned in the intro, the editorial team of assemblers on this compilation were indeed successful.

But what about the stories themselves, you may wonder?
All that hard work to offer a good selection doesn’t mean jack if the stories are boring as hell.
Well, thankfully, they aren’t.
Now, I will fully admit, there are a few stories in here that, as soon as I finished them, made me plop the book down a bit unsure if I liked them or not.
But, far more often than not, a few minutes of kicking them around in my ol head part brought me around to likin’ on them.

To get specific, Hyde Park by Shannon Fox, a modern day Jack The Ripper tale with a dark twist.
This one felt like it was all wrapped up a little too quickly, but upon reflection I did find it impressive how economic Fox was.
While snappy, there’s absolutely no wasted space.
Whoever Writes Monsters by Sam Knight, the story of a writer who lost his spouse and muse.
The jarringly quick tonal shift in this one had my head spinning a bit as it goes batshit crazy bloodlust 0 to 60 in no time flat, but after chewing it over I found it to be pretty ballsy and I quickly started to admire how bombastically crazy it ended up going.
And finally there was Motivating A Monster by Irene Radford, a story of a thespian dragon that has let himself go.
The issue I had with this one again ended up being a major part of the reason I dug it, the absurdity of a dragon that has made a career, and fortune, doing Kaiju flicks while living in a cave near the studio with an internet connection is so goofy, but fun to think about.

There are plenty of stories in here that I loved immediately (more on them in a bit), but one really stood out with its wonderfully Twilight Zonian flair for karma and I have to point it out.
Vinegar Symdrome by Ben Monroe features one of those stereotypical overappreciators of the art, history, and craft of *turns nose up haughtily* Cinema.
One night after closing up his arthouse theatre, he gets a call from a contact he’s made in town while pursuing his quest to snap up rare or vintage film memorabilia.
While reading a collection of stories like this, you should know what comes next, and the road there is satisfying as fuck, man.
After screwing the contact over for a long lost, and thought destroyed, piece of movie history, our main character gets what he has coming in a beautifully twisted and throughly just way.

Other highlights include Steve Rasnic Tem‘s Z Is for Zombie, which is the story of an old time Zombie performer from way back that feels oddly like a Night Of The Living Dead tribute to me, in the best possible way.
Linda Maye Adams‘s Alien Pizza about a gluten-free LA pizza joint that nobody expects to last long, given the *ahem* strange clientele that has brought down every other restaurant to call that building home.
David Gerrold‘s flash fiction ghost story Michael Thinks The House Is Haunted that packs a quick and funny punch to break some of the tension the book was building.
Julie Frost‘s When The Shift Hits The Fan, an incredibly fun story of an actress werewolf that has a cost cutting director ask too much of her on set.
The button at the end of this one is particularly good!
And the last one I want to make sure I mention, though I really dug so many more, is David Boop‘s supernatural western Progress Grows Out Of Motion.
When a grizzled and recently retired bounty hunter makes his way to the most haunted town in the Arizona territory, shit goes as sideways as you’d expect.
Just the concept of a supernatural western does it for me (why in the hell aren’t there more!?), but this is a thrilling ride on top of it.

Each of the stories I mentioned do an impressive job of filling one of the titular criteria, often times ticking off more than one.
There is straight horror, humor, heartbreak, Sci-Fi of many sorts, mystery, and more.
The curation of this collection is top notch for damn sure.
And now knowing and understanding the backstory of how this book came together makes it all even better.

I’ve only mentioned nine of the tales here, meaning you have fourteen more to discover yourself.
If you dig the short story format, this is one you shouldn’t miss, gang.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Horror And Dark Fantasy Is Now Available!

Check it out, gang, friend of the show, Kevin J. Anderson, is celebrating a book birthday today with the release of his new short story collection.
Perfectly timed for the Halloween season, Selected Stories: Horror And Dark Fantasy is now available for purchase.

The 3rd of 4 planned volumes, this is the best one yet!
Go check out my review and learn how this one is a surprising look at KJA and may change the way folks view him.

3/4ths of the way through this Selected Stories series, I highly recommend you all get this and the other 2 as soon as possible.
Head to your favorite Bookstore and order it or run on over to Amazon for the paperback, hardcover, or E-Format.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Horror And Dark Fantasy Review

This collection is intensely curious.
I, and I’m gonna guess many others, never pegged Kevin J. Anderson for a dude with a dark side.
I listen to his Pod (Creative Futurism), I have heard his Building My 1st Lightsaber/Popcorn Theory Of Success talk (which I highly recommend all creative types watch here), and I’ve seen and heard countless interviews with the man and he really comes off easy going and unflappable.
But this book feels like he’s purposely out to break your preconceived notions of him, his personality, and his style and I loved nearly every word of it.

As is usually the case round here, consider this your official ***Spoiler Alert***, gang.

1st and foremost, just to get this out of the way, the best story in this book is Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Role Model.
I was hoping he would include a Shamble story in one of these Fantasy volumes, I would have been supremely disappointed had he left out this character.
I talked a bit about this story in my review of Working Stiff, so I won’t go over it again.
But I have 2 things I have to say in regard to this entry.
1. We are going to go over this story with a fine tooth comb next month in Series 5 of The Nerd Blitz Book Club, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
And 2. The little intro revealed something I didn’t know, I love this Shamble story almost as much as KJA himself and, though it should be obvious, his love for this story is apparent in the extremely short intro.
At least until Services Rendered comes out, this is the best of the Shamble short stories, I really can’t recommend it enough.

The 2nd best story is the 27th of 29, The Sum Of His Parts.
It’s a Frankenstein story that KJA developed for the 2005 Dean Koontz novel Frankenstein: Prodigal Son as background and went unused.
It’s the story of how Victor Frankenstein acquired the various body parts to create his monster and it is delightfully chilling.
This one plays like the best anthology movies, a little bit Pulp Fiction and a heaping helping of Trick R Treat.
Seeing certain events from multiple perspectives and how they impact characters is a stroke of genius that I don’t have the confidence many other writers could pull off.
Reading this I couldn’t help but wonder why this hasn’t been turned into a movie itself, it is a great twist on the classic story.

But showing his love for the old Universal icons, Frankenstein’s isn’t the only classic monster on display here, there a few Vampire/Dracula stories in here that really pop as well.
Rude Awakening, The Fate Worse Than Death, & Much At Stake all handle that specific monster in inventive and fresh ways.
Two deal with the monsters being awakened from their slumber, but diverging down vastly different paths and one features a doped up Bela Lugosi and Vlad The Impaler having a meeting through time to discuss the power of fear and reputation.

As I said above, this volume of short stories seems to be about bucking your expectations, and it does.
One of the earliest examples of this trend is the story, written with musician Janis Ian, Dark Carbuncle.
I have to say, on behalf of Thornton Velbiss, KJA is a real torturous bastard!
Velbiss is a swear-slinging rockstar (my kinda guy!) who died, but a particularly dedicated group of his fans aren’t ready to let go just yet.
They resurrect him in the hope of getting him to play his classic song for many years to come.
Exasperated due to his hatred of the hit, he drops to his knees and bellows for mercy from the almighty…and ends up possibly playing the tune for all eternity.
It’s the M. Night-esque middle finger twist I’m coming to love from Anderson.
Keeping with the musical theme, he includes 2 stories written with legendary RUSH drummer, and his long time friend, Neil Peart that are fun and will make you want to find the other stories they wrote together.

Tucker’s Grove (the fictional Wisconsin small town I was first introduced to when I read Selected Stories: Fantasy) is really the star of this book.
I’m damn skippy between these 2 Fantasy volumes he has republished nearly, if not, all 13 of the stories from the 2011 short story collection focused on the town.
The depth of thought that he put into the history of this little hamlet over the years is admirable.
It’s his “Derry, Maine” or “Arkham, Massachusetts”, and you can tell he has the small town experience to draw on and make it feel legitimate.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of explaining this grouping of prose, but I know I’m running long.
I’ll start wrapping up by saying that this book features horror of all stripes, it feels like it covers more bases than the previous two Selected Stories collections combined.
You get classic monsters, modern slasher, humor, and psychological horror.
There is murder, abduction, betrayal, revenge, thievery, and magic curses in abundance, not to mention all of the sex, drugs, & rock ‘n roll that comes along with all of that.

Despite my love of the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series, I almost feel ashamed for still viewing KJA as the guy that just writes epic Science Fiction novels.
Stories range from back in 1984 up to flash fiction written during his MFA courses in 2018, giving a sense of how prolific and various he has always been.
And that has been my main take away from this Selected Stories series.
I have never hated a single thing I’ve read of his, but I, and a lot of people, had this dude pigeon-holed.
Age Rings (which he told me on Twitter he wrote in 15 minutes) alone should shatter all of that.
He can shift gears and write any genre with the best of them and he fuckin’ knows it.
Welcome to the dark side, sir, I hope you visit more often.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Horror And Dark Fantasy is available October 15th in Paperback, E-Format, and Hardcover.
Pre-order it on Amazon or wherever you buy books.

Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help on these reviews.

Share this on Twitter with the hashtag #TNBBookReview.