Welcome to the second day of WFTM's stop on the Pump Up Your Book tour of Lisa Morton's Monsters of LA. Yesterday Ms. Morton shared her thoughts on zombies (and the obvious lack of proper robots) in her short story collection. Today you get to hear my thoughts on not just the zombies, but the vampires, the mummies, the lizard people and all the other monsters roaming the streets of Morton's Los Angeles.
To learn more about Lisa Morton, check out her webiste here. I would like to thank her and PUYB tours for having us as hosts of the tour.
* Note: there is about 30 pages of “behind the scenes” supplementary material at the end of the book, giving background for each of the stories. At the time of this review, I had not read this background material due to a sudden and unexpected opportunity to meet one of my favorite bands last night. I hope Ms. Morton understands that I look forward to reading more of her thought process and am sorry I was unable to include it in this review.
Monsters of LA
Bad Moon Books (2011)
Short Stories / Monsters / Fantasy
I’ve never been a fan of scary movies. I have nightmares too easily and my anxiety levels are generally at a pretty high state all on their own. I know this sounds really weird considering my favorite television show is Supernatural, which is all about monsters and creepy things, but I also watch parts of that show with my hands covering my eyes asking Fernando to tell me when the gross stuff is over. I like monsters. They’re fun. I especially like them outside their usual settings and that’s what Lisa Morton does very well in Monsters of LA.
This book was nothing like I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a sort of silly story that happened to have characters that duplicated as classic monsters all sort of tangled together in one large story verging on the convoluted. Monsters of LA is nothing like that. For one thing it’s a collection of short stories (and one longer novella) taking place in the same world with subtle interconnectedness. Some secondary characters show up in multiple stories, particularly a professor of folklore and legend, while other stories mention occurrences from previous stories that would have made the news. Despite the monster-ness of it all, the stories are believable and very grounded in reality of the strange world we live in.
I can buy people at the La Brea tar pits thinking that a monster crawling out of the ooze is part of a publicity stunt for a movie until he starts ripping people apart. Or a story of a veteran soldier who was pieced back together into a form of Frankenstein’s monster only to find himself living despondently on the streets. Some of the stories were even a little heartbreaking, like “The Hunchback”, which involved a bullied high school student attempting to turn The Hunchback of Norte Dame into a musical, and “The Invisible Woman” that might have felt just a little too familiar. And I’ve never wanted to hit a “ghost hunter” in the face more than in “The Haunted House” or give a house a hug for that matter. Can you give hugs to houses?
My favorite of all the stories was of Dracula, an old famous movie star, who finds himself being upstaged by a younger costar. I should have seen where it was going, but perhaps I was reading too fast to notice the little clues. I don’t think it would have mattered anyway; I would have ended up laughing out loud at the end whether I saw it coming or not.
Another favorite was the tale of the Mad Scientist, a man playing God in the attempt to bring his wife back from a deadly car crash. The repercussions of this very short story pop up in the background of a few other stories before coming to a conclusion in the Zombie tale, which Morton talked about a bit in her guest post yesterday. Her version of zombies is different and the explanation of how they became what there were was fascinating in a science geek sort of way. I want to know more about her manobots and their effect on humans.
Morton also manages to make clowns even creepier than they actually are. I strongly suggest to all people who dress up like clowns to stay away from me because I might attempt to beat them down with a baseball bat to see if they bleed cotton candy. I will also avoid all stores with giant clown signs. It’s probably for the safety of all other people for them to do the same.
The only real complaint I have is with the longer novelette “Urban Legend”. After all the brilliant vignettes of her other stories, this ten chapter story dragged. Bogged down with relationship drama, the tight storytelling was replaced by a more languid pacing that probably would have sat better with me on its own than in this collection. I felt like I’d gone from speeding down the highway to a sudden halt in a matter of seconds. While the story of the lizard people is interesting (especially considering I had no idea that lizard people are rumored to have lived under Los Angeles), the other elements of the story, while making sense in context, left me wanting more lizard people (or pseudo-lizard people) and less mourning over a lost relationship.
But overall, it’s a great collection of stories ranging from funny to creepy to heartbreaking. It also gives the people of Los Angeles good reasons for being as weird as they are. I mean, when you have spas run by ancient Egyptians with special “wrap treatments”, you’ll probably end up with a few incredibly rich yet astoundingly superficial looking women. I can also imagine there are buckets of fame seekers who would attempt to take advantage of a kaiju “attack” to do something “heroic” only to have their own assholeishness (totally a word) come back against them.
Lisa Morton not only gives new life to old monsters, she manages to give all the weirdos in the world an excuse for them being how they are (it’s the alien flower plant’s fault).
Fun and interesting collection of short stories that put classic monsters in new and believable situations; a bit of a misstep in putting a longer, slower story in the middle of fast-paced shorts;
A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in return for an honest review as part of the Pump Up Your Book blog tour. If she puts robots in the next one, it will probably get an automatic A.