Science fiction and fantasy
by Dan Wells
I Am Not A Serial Killer Dan Wells invited his readers to try to identify with a sociopath. That choice seems all the more daring in Mr Monster as John's dark side asserts itself, and the chance of redemption keeps slipping further and further away.
To begin with the only bad guy in Clayton appears to be John himself, and there's no evidence of any supernatural threats. The identity of the Clayton Killer remains a mystery to law enforcement, and an FBI investigator has started asking John questions that he can't possibly answer. He's under suspicion. Then more bodies start to show up, and this time the killer is targeting young women. Is there a copycat serial killer, or another demon on the loose? And why are there more murders in this small town, only a few months after the last spate of deaths?
Scenes of ordinary domesticity are mixed with some chilling shocks. Things get quite gruesome later on in the book, so fans of violent nastiness will relish some of the more extreme chapters. It's effective horror, working on our fear of the unknown with the introduction of a character with impenetrable and bizarre motivations.
As for John's home life, it's far from a calming influence. His over-helpful mother has a knack for winding him up without really trying, whilst his sister Lauren has a new man in her life. These people are sources of tension, but one of the most disruptive people in John's life is Brooke, his potential girlfriend. His mother encourages him to spend more time with Brooke, but he can hardly bear to look at her. There's a rising unease as John attempts to maintain his elaborate rules of conduct in the face of the ever-changing social situations that results from growing up.
People in this story often have a distorted view of others, no matter how close they may seem to be. This contrast between the way others see us and the way we see ourselves is a prominent theme.
With his odious impulses to hurt and destroy, you may be wondering how John Cleaver could be at all likeable. The wonder of it all is, he is. It's the effort he makes to keep his evil thoughts under control that changes him from a villain into a sympathetic, interesting character. After all, how many of us can't identify with the universal struggle to be less horrid?
Mr Monster has a particularly great ending, the kind that opens up a new perspective on the whole story and jolts your emotions at the same time. It's a worthy sequel to I Am Not A Serial Killer: quirky, exciting, and hellishly bloodthirsty.
1st April 2010
If you like this, try:Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human
Baxter is trying to lead a normal life as a high school racketeer when his girlfriend goes missing, and he has to hire a supernatural bounty hunter to retrieve her. The first in the Apocalypse Now Now series.
Unpleasant Tales by Brendan Connell
This short story collection makes a great gift for the discerning evil lunatic.
Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Dan Wells
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