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I am of two minds about this anthology, "The Monster Within Idea," edited by R. Thomas Riley, from Apex Publications. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other hand, it really frustrated me. The good stories, like "Touching God," "Jenny," "Haven," "The Run," "Bubo" and "Brittle Bones, Plastic Skin" are really excellent stories. Creepy, visceral and evocative stories than make you grin while your skin puckers in goose bumps. They lead you to the edge of the precipice and then drop you over to a satisfying conclusion--be it a sudden crash at the end or the revelation of wings.

The other stories are not bad stories. Far from it and that is why I am frustrated. I believe this is a stylistic choice by the author/editor (who does a good job putting the stories together in a way that makes them flow), but many of the stories seemed to be chapters 4 through 6 of an eight chapter story. They don't have satisfying conclusions. They are well written, draw you in and then leave you hanging. The most frustrating of these stories is the first story of the book, "Attrition." It stops too soon. I want to know if the protagonist makes into and through the tunnel. I want to know what he goes through. Instead, I am left with knowing he is going to go through it but not knowing if he makes it or not.

I give this anthology a 3 out of 5 because the strong stories are enough to pull the reader through the stories that stop too soon. There is no bad writing in this anthology. Just a few too-short stories mixed amongst the gems.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
rthomasriley
Mar. 5th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
Thanks!
Jennifer,

First off, much thanks for taking the time to read the book and offer your comments and insights. I really appreciate it.

I'm delighted that the majority of the collection worked for you, and understand why the others were frustrating. The fact that you were wanting more and wanting to know what happened to the characters shows that I did my job as an author. I tend to write vague endings, not because I don't have an ending, but rather, I like to leave what happens next up to the reader. I know what happens next to John from "Attrition", but I wanted the reader to wonder and draw their own conclusions. Did he make it out? Or did he not? I've gone back and explored stories in the past where the ending has been left up to the reader's imagination and I can say that we have not seen the last of John. He's been telling me a few things since I originally wrote the piece.

Again, many thanks for taking the time to read my work.

Thomas
jennifer_brozek
Mar. 5th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks!
I figured it was a stylistic choice and I can't blame you overmuch for that. Like I said, the good stories were really good. And the short stories were too short. I suppose, as a reviewer, one of the nicest complaints I can give you is "Darn it! I want to read more. Why did you stop there?"
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