Friday, 2 September 2011
'Monstrocity' - Jeffrey Thomas
Christopher Ruby is about to commit murder. It's not something he imagined he would ever have to do. The buckshot has already left the barrel and is only a split second away from his victim's face. This one won't even be his first kill.
Let's start from the beginning.
Christopher Ruby is a resident of Punktown. It's not the largest city on the planet Oasis, but it's the most fun. Think of it as Camden Town to Stratford. Christopher has a rather boring IT job and a flat that has seen better days. The best thing about his life right now is his girlfriend, Gaby. He adores her pale, ceramic smooth flesh and the plexiglass window on her chest bearing her heart.
One night after some sweaty lovemaking she tells him about one of her friends and what she claims she could do. In a room with eight corners, light a candle in each corner and you can summon demons. Christopher Ruby is an atheist so he finds this claim to be rather absurd, but to humour her he suggests that they try it. She does have a terrible temper after all. Gaby produces the candles and a recording of the incantations which will open and close the gateway between realities. Nothing seems to happen after a couple of attempts so they give up and resume their lovemaking. In their excitement they don't realise they have used the opening incantation one time more than the closing one.
The morning after when Christopher wakes up Gaby is already gone. She does not return his calls and when he finally talks to her she makes it clear that the occult is what interests her now. She does not feel that he understands her anymore. Desperate to win her back he starts his own research. He quickly discovers that perhaps there is some truth to what Gaby has told him. Humans are not the only ones with myths about the old gods.
I like Punktown. It's a dirty and hard city, where the weak are preyed upon by the stronger. It's a melting pot of different species where crime is rife and the police are hard pressed to maintain the rule of law. In such a short book, Thomas manages to provide a lot of detail about different aliens and their cultures, many of which are clearly influenced by real cultures and religions. Although some of the practices should be familiar, they seem even more strange and alien when adopted by actual aliens. Jeffrey Thomas conveys a feeling of brutality to his creation by how he casually mentions acts of abuse and violence in a very offhand manner. A fitting setting for a horror story.
Christopher Ruby is a well written character. Jeffrey Thomas has taken an ordinary, geeky guy, who is easy to relate to, and placed him in the path of the old gods. He starts out rather meek, but circumstances harden him. He himself seems surprised at what he is capable of and accepts the mantle of defending mankind against old slumbering gods with a shrug. He also sexes up some hot alien women on the way.
It's a shame that the plot sometimes falters when Jeffrey Thomas lets Christopher Ruby ponder too much about what is going on. The rich descriptions of the environment at times slowed things down and more than once ruined the suspense that had been built up. Persistence pays off though as things gets more interesting toward the end of the book. I liked how it was not made immediately certain that the old gods actually existed. It kept me turning the page.
I was not disappointed by Monstrocity even if it did not blow my mind. It's entertaining enough to be worthy of a place on the to read pile. Jeffrey Thomas delivers a nail bitingly intense read in a engrossing setting with icky alien sex and shotgun action. Any fan of Cthulhu-based horror should enjoy this book.
Monstrocity weighs in at 236 pages and has been republished by Anarchy Books.