The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

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The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A book about a book being written in honour of another book, one where the author seems to have a fair bit in common with the author of this book… still with me? It's fun, but the fact my opinion about it is still wavering suggests it's not quite as nailed-down perfect as I'd have expected.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: September 2018
Publisher: Zephyr
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781788542302

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Two hundred years ago, bad weather, bad company (well, the kind that is also mad, and dangerous to know), a spooky reading list and a few chance topics of discussion all led a young woman to start writing her first, and definitely her most famous ever, book. The narrator of this novel has brought himself to a remote Alpine building, in the centre of that first novel's world, to revisit it in honour of its bicentenary. He hates it, for he sees it as badly written and with some unwelcome biases. He seems to only be there and doing this for the publisher to whom he addresses a lot of the script we read. But what if some greater force wanted him there too?

I could definitely see Mr Sedgwick at play here. He's having fun writing, even if his character (who has the initials MS, for some reason) isn't. He gives us wonderful instances of wordplay, such as using feeble as a verb in the instance of a torch's light. There are minor repetitions, and tiny transgressions of regularly used language, leading in fact to a fully drunken, distorted page of one-word sentences. Contrast all that with the poor, suffering character, who takes until page 75 before he even mentions the name of the book he is supposedly writing in honour of – in case you hadn't guessed, it's Frankenstein.

But I did wonder at times if this book wasn't too much fun for Sedgwick, and not enough for us. It's not the most substantial work he's ever put out, for one – that page 75 doesn't take long to turn up, and I think the audiobook producers would have just about managed to fit the thing onto two CDs, back in the day. Make no mistake about it, the creepy bits when they're intended to be creepy are downright creepy, so there's no laxity there. But with the distinct feel of the author being in his own book, and discussing its creation, I thought this to be the kind of meta thriller Anthony Horowitz has turned to recently, such as The Word is Murder. This didn't quite pull me in to the same extent, nor did it fully justify it being so self-reflecting.

Of course, the reader is left asking how much of the character we read is Sedgwick – would he relish the effort of doing a meta spin-off of Frankenstein or not, and did he indeed get asked to do so, and this is the result? He has certainly tried to make the book about other things, but again I didn't feel they were quite there. Bizarrely, the book can be said to be about trolling – put evil thoughts out there, write nastiness down, and the world only begets more nastiness. You wouldn't have thought a 200-year-old horror would inspire such a contemporary reflection. But as I say, I didn't see that coming through enough for my satisfaction. I didn't see the homage to Mary Shelley, if that was the ultimate intent, as existing completely. If I could borrow a phrase, the book seems to be feebling round a lot of different angles, and mentioning its own creation too much, to be an outright success.

There is a great cinematic quality to the writing – Sedgwick is borrowing FX scenes from cinema, and conveying them very well here, and the whole thing really impacts on the mental camera. I'm left with my own thoughts, more pinballing than feebling around about the whole thing, that are certainly on the side of positivity, and happiness at having read this novel, but with doubt this is really a YA title, and also with a sense that this wonderful author, who seldom does any wrong, may have got his feet wet crossing this particular time-stream.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Trolling is certainly the core of the wonderful plot in Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais. But for a very similar book of a man writing atop a hairpin bend-filled road, we definitely recommend You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann and Ross Benjamin (translator).

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Buy The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick at


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