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Bewildering Stories

Mad Marv, Man-Made Monsters

reviewed by Ian D. Arbuckle

Author: Mad Marv
Publisher: Crypto-American Press
Length: 260 pages
Price: $9.95 + s&h
ISBN: 0977134105

Man-Made Monsters, by Mad Marv (sorry about all the alliteration) is a collection of thematically linked stories about monsters. The goal of a thematic collection of stories is to explore a certain subject from a number of different angles, and its a goal that Man-Made Monsters very nearly achieves. Despite failing to live up completely to its introduction’s paraphrasing of this goal, it’s an engaging collection of dark and action horror.

Though the stories that make up the collection don’t do much to speak to the topic at hand (namely man’s inhumanity to man), they are, without exception, great reads on the surface level. Marv takes great pains to set up scenarios that are familiar, but with just enough to twist to keep the reader interested. There are zombies, and killer diseases, and werewolves a-plenty, but they’re none of them straight out of the monster movies.

The characters are, on occasion, a little thin, or their back stories are presented as more of an afterthought than as defining characteristics, but to change the characterization in any conceivable way would ruin the quick momentum of these tales, where the focus is on scenario.

There are five full stories, each running into higher word count territory, and one interstitial story called “Recipes for Disaster” that is presented section-by-section in between each story. Marv is deft at handling these larger narratives and the lengths are never drawn out further than they need to be.

My favorite of the stories is “Mosquito,” which features a nice spin on several horror tropes: cannibalism, disease outbreak, and conspiracy. The ending is telegraphed a good ways out, but the journey there is easily enough fun to make up for it. The problem that “Mosquito” typifies, though not cripplingly so, is that the horror is more visceral than psychological, more gore than straight-up horror. This works because the story doesn’t try to dig too deeply into its subject matter, instead using it as a springboard to adventure, but it sort of disagrees with Marv’s stated intentions for the anthology.

On the purely negative side of things, I have to mention the frequent typographical errors. There are a few that are repeated that really should have been caught during the editorial process, and one especially that causes a chapter heading (for “The Hypno-Chondriac”) to be misspelled on every page of the story.

Editorial quibbles aside, Man-Made Monsters is a above-average collection of popular horror. A reader might be understandably let down that the philosophical commentary implied by Marv isn’t thoroughly explored, but nevertheless the book manages to be an entertaining afternoon’s read solely on terms of action, adventure, and horror with a lot of chunks.

Here’s the Crypto-American Press website:

Copyright © 2005 by Ian Donnell Arbuckle

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