BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review of Those Who Fight Monsters, ed by Justin Gustainis

Publisher: EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy

Release Date: April 12, 2011

More Info:  Amazon  

Book Blurb:
Got Vampires? Ghosts? Monsters? We Can help!

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, is your one-stop-shop for Urban Fantasy’s finest anthology of the supernatural. 14 sleuths are gathered together for the first time in all-original tales of unusual cases which require services that go far beyond mere deduction!

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives brings together popular characters from many Urban Fantasy paranormal investigative series, for your enjoyment.

Meet the Detectives:

Danny Hendrickson - from Laura Anne Gilman's Cosa Nostradamus series.
Kate Connor - from Julie Kenner’s Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series.
John Taylor - from Simon R. Green’s Nightside series.
Jill Kismet - from Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series.
Jessi Hardin - from Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.
Quincey Morris - from Justin Gustainis’ Morris/Chastain Investigations series.
Marla Mason - from T. A. Pratt's Marla Mason series.
Tony Foster - from Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Shadows series.
Dawn Madison - from Chris Marie Green’s Vampire Babylon series.
Pete Caldecott - from Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series.
Tony Giodone - from C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp’s Tales of the Sazi series.
Jezebel - from Jackie Kessler’s Hell on Earth series.
Piers Knight - from C. J. Henderson’s Brooklyn Knight series.
Cassiel - from Rachel Caine’s Outcast Season series.

Demons may lurk, werewolves may prowl, vampires may ride the wind. These are things that go bump in the night, but we are the ones who bump back!
My Thoughts:

So, this is the first anthology I've ever reviewed. I spent some time thinking about how I should do it. I hope the format that I came up with will work for you all. If not, let me so I can do it differently if I review any more anthologies.

I'm going to take a quick look at whether the stories as a whole met the title and the theme of the book, then I'll do a quick run-down of each story (there are 14). I'll quote a line that I really enjoyed, state if I liked it and whether or not it left me wanting to go and read more in that series or by that author, also whether it works as a stand-alone or if you need to be current on the books before reading.

The collection features 14 sleuths, some traditional, some not, in original tales of unusual cases involving vampires, demons, succubi, and other supernatural critters. Gustainis, the editor, defines occult detectives broadly by his own admission - "to include any fictional character who contends regularly with the  supernatural." That broad definition allows for a wide range of detectives, supernatural beings and occurrences and mysteries. The stories all fit well in the given range. The authors are all well known to moderately well known in the urban fantasy field; some I had read before, many were new for me.
As is true in most anthologies, there were a few favorites in the collection:  Simon R. Green's "The Spirit of the Thing," was one of the best ghost stories I have read in ages. It was haunting and cryptic, and didn't go in the direction that I expected. Jackie Kessler's "Hell Bound" made me laugh and reminded me that I need to catch up on that series (I'm several books behind).

  1. "Little Better Than A Beast" by T.A.Pratt - quote: "She considered reprimanding him for not bringing the letter on time, but it would be like hitting a puppy fifteen minutes after it pissed on the carpet -the poor thing wouldn't even understand what it was being disciplined for." An ok story, it didn't leave me wanting to go find more in the series; it works as a stand alone but is probably better appreciated if familiar with the Marla Mason series.
  2. "Dusted" by Laura Anne Gilman - quote: "My father's species wasn't much for sunlight, except maybe to nap in while recovering from their hangovers, and I'm willing to admit I'd inherited significant night-owl tendencies." A reminder that the fae have a dark side; it works as a stand alone but if I didn't already read the Cosa Nostradamus it probably wouldn't lure me in. It does focus on a secondary character from the books and gives him a chance to shine.
  3. "The Demon You Know..." by Julie Kenner - quote: "There are a lot of things that make moms nervous. The first time you leave your baby with a sitter. The first day of kindergarten. And, of course, the first time your daughter battles a demon right in her own backyard." I suggest reading one of the books first, it's a bit confusing otherwise. I had read the first book when it was released and found it self-consciously cute. Judging by this story, Kenner has gotten past that and I may try the books again.
  4. "The Spirit of the Thing" by Simon R Green - quote: "I didn't pay her much attention at first, except to wonder what someone so normal-looking was doing in dive like this...and then she walked right through the table next to me and the people sitting around it." As I mentioned above, it's a very good ghost story, with a touch of humor, and it serves as good introduction to the Nightside series while working very well as a stand-alone story.
  5. "Holding the Line" by Lilith Saintcrow - quote: "Even if your heart is breaking, you've got to get the job done." I confess, I'm not a fan of Saintcrow's writing, it just doesn't do it for me and this story was no exception. I just couldn't care what happened to the characters, and if you aren't familiar with the Jill Kismet series, this story is very confusing. I won't be picking up the books.
  6. "Defining Shadows" by Carrie Vaughn - quote: "Hardin imagined trying to explain this to the captain. She managed to get the werewolves pushed through and on record, but this was so much weirder." Part of the Kitty Norville series, it's not bad as a stand alone but is so-so as an introduction to the series. Again, if I didn't already read the books, this wouldn't have had me rushing out to buy them. That said, I loved that Vaughn used a non-European supernatural creature, it was a pleasant change from the standard European and American traditions.    
  7. "Deal Breaker" by Justin Gustainis (also the anthology editor) - quote: "...bargaining away your soul to a minion of Hell has become a ...a cultural trope that has no basis in actual practice. Sort of like the Easter Bunny, but a lot more sinister." A fresh, funny but not over the top take on the Faust story; very good as a stand-alone and as an intro to the Quincey Morris books. I definitely want to read more. 
  8. "See Me" by Tanya Huff - quote: "She's terrified she's going to be charged with murder." "Death by hand job?" I loved Tony in the Victoria Nelson books but was disappointed in Tony's spin off series. This short story though, I enjoyed. Tony shone as a character but it had more of the flavor of the Vicki Neslon stories. Sorry, Henry is not in the story and neither is Vicki. This is another ghost story and like Green's story it's an update of an old one. Not bad as a stand alone but it might be confusing if you are unfamiliar with Tony's books, the Smoke and Shadows series.
  9. "Soul Stain" by Chris Marie Green - quote: "So we took care of her, dressed her in her favorite outfits, fed her, adored her." This was very confusing. I haven't read any of the other books in the Vampire Babylon series and there was a lot that I was missing. Green has a different take on vampires and ghosts and I didn't see the ending coming. But, read after reading the books for maximum enjoyment and minimal confusion.
  10. "Under the Hill and Far Away" by Kaitlin Kittredge - quote: "He had pupiless eyes, silver. Beautiful, if you were into that Tolkien bullshit. Or Shark Week." Smart, funny, and another reminder that the fae are Other, with a nice little mystery. Part of the Black London series, I intend to find and read them; a good stand alone. 
  11. "An Ace in the Hole" by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp - quote: "She should have an aura, but didn't. No scent, no magic aura, but a shifter? That was just wrong on so many levels." Tony is my favorite from the Sazi books so I was excited that he had a story but when I read it, it didn't feel like Tony. He seemed different, calmer, milder, not Tony. It works as a stand alone but might be confusing. I'm behind on this series too and several scenes had me going, "What? when did that happen?"    
  12. "Hell Bound" by Jackie Kessler - quote: "Noel actually talked to me and not to my chest. Hmm. To fix that, I took a deep breath. Yep, there we go-now he was staring at my twin assets. Much better." Funny, smart and when I thought I knew where Kessler was going with the story, she threw me a curve ball. Works well as a stand alone and intro to the Hell on Earth series but might be slightly confusing.
  13. Impossible Love" by C.J. Henderson = quote: "New Age grasping at straws. Superstition. Nonsense." A modern day tale of demonic possession, it reads a bit like a journal article but not on purpose. It's dry but Henderson deftly mixes various religious and mythological traditions with modern day tragedy; not bad as a stand alone, I doubt if it will inspire many readers to seek out more of the Piers Knight books.
  14. "Running Wild" by Rachel Caine - quote: " 'I really love you right now," he said and then thought about it for a second. 'Evil bitch.' " Funny, sassy, typical Caine writing, this works well as a stand alone with only mild confusion. This is from her Outcast series, which is a spinoff from the Weather Wardens series. It was fun and will likely inspire new readers to seek out the books.
This book was received was from the editor for review. The review first appeared at Book Lovers Inc.  

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