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Book Review

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Menace of the Monster
Classic Tales of Creatures from Beyond


Author: Various
Editor: Mike Ashley
Publisher: British Library
240 pages
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 7123 5269 7
Publication Date: 12 September 2019

The British Library publishes a collection of fourteen short stories from the first half of the twentieth century, called Menace of the Monster. The linking theme is monsters, whether they be from Earth’s past, mutations or frightening alien beings. It is edited by Mike Ashley, a historian of popular fiction who has been involved in more than a hundred books. He is a long-time contributor for the British Library, and is the editor of their classic anthologies Lost Mars, Moonrise, Menace of the Machine, and The End of the World and Other Catastrophes. This volume is presented in paperback form, with 240 pages, and cover artwork and frontispiece both by Warwick Goble...

The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells is a dramatically condensed version produced by Wells himself to accompany many skilful artwork depictions of the inherent scenes, which were emerging at the time. King Kong, by Draycott Dell & Edgar Wallace is the literary interpretation of the popular movie from 1933. The plot of this is widely known. I love H.P. Lovecraft, and no collection like this should be without him. In this case his work is represented by Dagon, an early tale from the Cthulhu Mythos. The movie, directed by Stuart Gordon, is actually the story of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, although there are brief sightings of Dagon.

The real appeal of this collection comes from the lesser-known half-forgotten stories. They range not only in years (from 1899 to 1961) but in quality. For example, although the format has been copied countless times, The Dragon of St Paul’s – by Reginald Bacchus & C. Ranger Gull – is so basic an idea as to be pretty dull. There are plenty of good reads here, however, some of which subsequently influenced better-known books and films. In Amundsen’s Tent, by John Martin Leahy – about a Polar expedition and a madness-inducing creature found in a Norwegian tent – is said to have inspired Who Goes There (the book which was made into the movie The Thing) and also to a lesser extent by Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness. The Cloud-Men, by Owen Oliver is an Earth invasion which you can’t imaging working without the foundations set in place by H. G. Wells, but it is interesting enough to stand on its own two feet.

The stand-out story for me is De Profundis, by Coutts Brisbane – about a vast army of 1.5 inch man-eating ants which sweeps from the Cornish mines and eventually overruns London. Also noteworthy is The Monster From Nowhere, by Nelson S. Bond – about a dangerous two-dimensional creature. Science Fiction stalwart A.E. Van Vogt is represented by Discord in Scarlet, about a carnivorous alien being treated in a galactic hospital. However, I prefer the home-grown monsters to the alien ones. There is a real mixed bag here; nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.


Ty Power

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