Monstrous was written by local St. Louis writer J.E. Billiot and consists of seven horror-based short stories. This book landed on my to-read list after my cousin gave it to me, her knowing that I think horror is to die for. Short stories are a different territory compared to novels since authors are expected to do much of the same with a smaller time limit. Some of the stories in this book were shorter than others; the shortest story being only 7 pages long while two of them tie for longest at 31 pages a piece.
Compound 23 follows a young man named Matthew that unexpectedly comes in a wealthy position with a lot of power. Matthew is quick to learn that the decisions he now makes can have truly monstrous results.
Prima Nocta takes place in medieval times from the perspective of a man referred to as The Lord. When he attempts to kick out a peasant who is living on his land without permission, The Lord discovers much more than commoners in this simple thatch hut.
Zimudar stands out from the rest of the short stories because it is not a tale of horror, but of love. Some of the imagery is terrifyingly descriptive but this tale follows a demon, the titular Zimudar (Zim for short), who does the one thing a demon is never supposed to do, fall in love. While this type of story is not what readers may expect from Monstrous, it is nonetheless a good tale and demonstrates that Billiot is capable of more than one style and/or genre of writing.
The Ghost of Quick House is a classic story of the old, spooky house that is supposedly haunted and the brave/foolish neighborhood children who resolve to investigate. This story was a bit more straightforward than the others and felt like it could have used a little more terror.
Hybernaculum (hibernaculum: a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal, Merriam-Webster) is fairly unique in that it takes place from a non-human perspective. The story takes place through the eyes of a dog, who loves to dig, dig, dig. Some of the details in this story are limited, which works instead of being frustrating since it is supposed to be a dog reiterating this information instead of a person. This story did contain one of the few problems with Monstrous; the dog refers to his owner as the “brown hair lady” and to her boyfriend as the “tall pink yelling man”. Dogs are colorblind, so using the same descriptives with colors that a person would use just made this particular story feel a bit off.
My Friend is written as a poem, unlike the rest of the stories in Monstrous. Because it is poetry the details provided to readers are limited but they are just enough to make this story absolutely terrifying. Readers may find My Friend to be the scariest story in this entire book.
One Hundred and One Days was not the most fright-inducing story in Monstrous but it was definitely one of the most interesting. The story takes a classic horror scenario but puts a new spin on it that many readers may not have encountered before.
Overall, this book was a good way to spend an afternoon. It is a short book and, as is the case with most short story collections, some of the stories are better than the others. Which stories stand out is best is determined as much by reader preference as by anything else. But if you like horror, and especially if you are from St. Louis, this book is definitely worth a read.