Our fear of the unknown is what is really at the heart of a good monster story. I still feel a rush of adrenalin when I'm afraid, and it's that little jolt that makes me read stories about monsters. These are some of my favorite monster tales.
- No discussion about monster stories is complete without mentioning Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (Geekend contributor Nicole Bremer Nash considers this required reading for any geek.) Unfortunately, when you mention the book, somebody always brings up the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, in which the creature is an inarticulate beast; in the novel, he is kind and caring, and he reluctantly turns to darkness only when rejected by his creator, who is the real monster.
- Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" impacts everyone who reads it. While this short story doesn't feature what most people would consider a monster, I think that Montresor more than fits the bill. Anyone who can do what Montresor did to Fortunato cannot be regarded as human.
- Perhaps no other author created characters (or if you prefer, elder gods) as dark and as monstrous as H. P. Lovecraft. In the universe he crafted, humanity is but an insignificant part. The best known of Lovecraft's creations is Cthulhu, who was introduced in the 1926 short story "The Call of Cthulhu". Since 1928, Lovecraft and others have added to the original story and created the Cthulhu Mythos, which is a rich tapestry of evil and horror.
- I listen to a lot of audiobooks during my commute from hell (or rather the commute to and from hell and the suburbs of hell), and I stunned to learn that The New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler released his books as free audiobooks. Before encountering Sigler's works I thought that Lovecraft perfected the monster tale, but boy was I was wrong. In Sigler's stories, there's always a monster, and it can be anywhere. In Earthcore, the monsters are usually underground; in Ancestor, you should look in the genes; and in Infected, you should look within yourself. This guy makes a living peddling really good nightmares, and I'm more than a little envious.
The book I no longer recommend
I used to recommend Stephen King's Pet Sematary, but I no longer do that because of an incident with a coworker. This coworker always walked to work when the weather was nice. The walk was pleasant and was less than a quarter mile through a small patch of forest, which was much better than walking more than a mile along the roads or driving. That was the situation until I recommended that he read Pet Sematary.
Several months later it was pointed out to me that my coworker stopped walking through the woods -- in fact, he seemed to avoid any forest or large grouping of trees. Piecing things together from what he told some of our coworkers, I learned that this change was due to his fear of the Wendigo. After reading Pet Sematary, it seems my coworker became convinced that there was a Wendigo in that little patch of forest, and no one could convince him otherwise. So, while I will re-read this book myself, I no longer recommend it to others.
Am I a monster?
I really like that in some of these tales the monster is totally oblivious to the fact that he or she is a monster. I'm not sure why, but this makes me wonder if I am a monster. So, let me ask you, dear Geekend reader: Am I the only one who wakes up naked on the back porch after a full moon with the coppery taste of blood in my mouth?
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- Know your science-fiction subgenres
- Edison's Conquest of Mars: A Victorian Era steampunk space opera
- TechRepublic's geek reading list
- A required reading list for geeks
- Book Review: 'American Gods'