Pacific Monsters edited by Margret Helgadottir
Publisher - Fox Spirit Books
Published - Out Now
Price - £10 paperback
Here be Monsters! They lurk and crawl and fly in the shadows of our mind. We know them from ancient legends and tales whispered by the campfire. They hide under the dark bridge, in the deep woods or out on the great plains, in the drizzling rain forest or out on the foggy moor, beneath the surface, under your bed. They don’t sparkle or have any interest in us except to tear us apart. They are the monsters! Forgotten, unknown, misunderstood, overused, watered down. We adore them still. We want to give them a renaissance, to re-establish their dark reputation, to give them a comeback, let the world know of their real terror.
As you’ll have seen I’m a big fan of the Monsters series from Fox Spirit Books which is an ongoing series exploring the Monster myths and legends of the world written by writers with connections to the area. In this fourth volume the award-winning editor Margret Helgadottir takes us to the Pacific and we see what lurks in the lands and seas of the islands as well as Australasia. I really enjoyed the selection and many myths I’d never heard of before. It’s a very strong selection and among the tales these are the ones I found spoke to me most: -
Monster by Tina Makereti
In the opening story we get a very warming tale of an ancient sea monster making its long-delayed trip to the land where it meets a woman who no longer has anything to live for. A chance encounter changes their views. Eerie but has a rich emotional pull.
From the Womb of Our Land, Our Bones Entwined by AJ Fitzwater
This tale is in modern New Zealand two Maori women re-unite as earthquakes start hitting the island yet again. It uses the myth of the daughters of Papatuanuku who can control the earth gods to explore a woman’s battle to find out who she is. Its powerful in how these powers have hurt this girl’s life but it also suggests she can beat her inner demons.
The Hand Walker by Rue Karney
This story explores the idea of a fabricated monster (a hand walking flesh-eating ghost) to explore some of Australia’s most evil atrocities against the aboriginal population. A very capable butcher is tempted into hunting the demon down, but she finds in the spectral outback a personal connection that may overpower her. This story just gives you a feeling that something isn’t quite right in how people act but it makes a strong point about forgotten chapters in history
Grind by Michael Gray
In the 19th century a whaling crew find themselves trapped in the Antarctic Ice for winter. Slowly the crew are drawn to the angel of the sea. It’s more of a pressure cooker as you are not sure if the issue is the human mind or something more spectral but it’s a very well told epic story told in a few paragraphs with horror not simply created by monsters.
Dinordis by Octavia Gade and illustrated by Dave Johnson
A young girl runs away into the jungle and finds a roc that triggers memories of her grandmother’s final days. It’s bleak and stark with a haunting final page.
The Weight of Silence by Jeremy Szal
An alternate Australia has spiders rising up and taking over the world. Towns and cities covered in webbing hiding the monsters ready for your flesh. A young man seeking the next town to liberate realises he is in his own hometown and this raises not just spiders but bad memories. I read this on a park bench and a heavy leaf fell on my shoulder…reader I jumped!! Powerful horror.
Above the Peppermint Trail by Simon Dewar
This should be one of the funnier stories as it gives us the myth of the drop bears. Super-sized Koala like beats that fall from trees. They sound so cute but a bit like ewoks they are bloodier than you expect. You’ll never look at those creatures in the same way again!!
All My Relations by Bryan Kamoli Kuwada
In Hawaii there was once a truce among the Sharks that meant those who can change form into humans no longer prayed upon the real thing. Skip forward a few hundred years and one hunter is torn between the two worlds as he befriends a young child that worships him, but has he taught him the wrong habits. Fascinating legend mixed with a description of the horrors under the sea.
Mudgerwokee by Kirstie Olley
A young woman and her family quickly escape to the Australian outback, she swiftly befriends some teens and they go wandering in search of a beauty spot and a legend that trades power for sacrifices. It is saying a lot more about social issues than you think until you reach the end which is soaked in violence. Stays with you long after you close the pages
Into the Sickly Light by AC Buchanan
In what appears to be mid-twentieth century Australia a hair strewn monster arrives on the beach. The locals start to attack the corpse, and this connects to a young woman with many secrets. I loved this story the most in the pack as it moves from a mystery to a personal story about attitudes to homosexuality and the need to not simply hide in the shadows.
One of my favourite volumes so far and the exploration of social issues with monsters is well told and gives me a lot of information about he the worlds they come from. Highly recommended!