Tuesday 13 October 2015

Recommendation: Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley

A few words of recommendation from me for the debut collection from Ray Cluley, Probably Monsters. Cluley is a writer I've liked for awhile; I'd read a number of the stories in this book before, in Black Static and the like, but it was a real pleasure to read so many all in one go. (Not always the case with single author collections, I find, sometimes a lack of variety can make a collection a real slog.)

But there's enough variety here to mean that's not a concern, even over the course of twenty stories. The settings range from rundown British housing estates (The Festering) to pristine Russian wilderness (Where The Salmon Run); the style varies from the dark as hell Knock Knock, through weird Westerns, to the Hollywood cliche parodying Shark! Shark! The latter in particular is a joy, a magic trick where you can't see how it's done: fourth wall breaking narration and overt cinematic references somehow coming together to make a superbly scary story. Other highlights include Beachcombing, Night Fishing and my own personal favourite, I Have Heard The Mermaids Singing (I'm a sucker for a TS Eliot reference), a story about decompression sickness and human corruption and possibly even mermaids themselves that, upon finishing (and picking my jaw up from the floor) I immediately turned back and read again.

I'm purposely avoiding saying to much about the plots of these stories because they're so well constructed; everything dovetails so neatly together that if I started to describe the opening of one of the stories here I wouldn't know where to stop. So rather than risk saying too much, I won't start.

Accomplished, atmospheric and an admirable showcase for Cluley's undoubted talents, Probably Monsters is likely to be up there with the best collections of the year.

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