Spoooooky Sunday: Probably Monsters, by Ray Cluley

March 01, 2015

The last time I reviewed a horror collection, I mentioned that I hadn't found that horror book, the one that would scare me as much as some of my favorite/oh-lord-why-did-I-do-this-to-myself horror films. Well, I found it, and... oh lord, why did I do this to myself?

I first got this book in the middle of February, and it took me just about two weeks to get through it. It isn't very long—my e-ARC came to 327 pages for twenty short stories—but I kept having to put it down because it was making me so, so uncomfortable.

The most unnerving parts of these stories weren't the supernatural elements (though those were plentiful and awesome); I was much more disturbed by the things that could happen in everyday life. Cluley addresses this in his foreword to the collection:
"Nowadays, when people ask me what I'm writing about, I tend to say 'probably monsters.' Sometimes the monsters are blood-sucking fiends with fleshy wings, and sometimes they're shambling dead things that won't rest. Sometimes. Sometimes they're people, people like you and me (well, maybe you, certainly not me) and these ones are everywhere. But sometimes they're worse than any of these. They're the things that make us howl in the darkness, hoping no one hears—monsters we've perhaps made ourselves and struggle to overcome. Despite what our parents may have told us, there are such things as monsters. Lots of them." (pg. 7)
For instance, the most horrifying story in the collection for me was "The Death Drive of Rita, nee Carina." I don't want to spoil too much, but I'm just going to tell you that there are lots of car accidents in it and, as you might guess, not all of them are really accidents. A bit over-the-top, for sure, but as an already uneasy driver, I couldn't help but think of this story the next time I got behind the wheel. In summary, ugggggggh.

A few other scary standouts: "A Mother's Blood" (gah motherhood), "Pins and Needles" (mostly because I hate hate hate shots/getting blood drawn), "Knock-Knock" (domestic violence) and "The Festering" (child abuse/neglect with some graphic sex stuff thrown in).

Then there were the few that scared me less than they made me smile, laugh or cry. "Shark! Shark!" is as ridiculous and funny as the title, and the final story, "Beachcombing," was a surprisingly tender piece about how a child might perceive suicide.

All in all, this collection is fantastically written and will appeal both to those looking for the visceral and the psychological. All I can say is that I'm really glad I'm done reading it and am going to take a long break from horror. Ray Cluley, you scary.

Disclaimer goes here: I received an advance review copy of Probably Monsters from NetGalley for my honest review. Thanks to Chizine Publications for the chance to read it!

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  1. I totally agree - it's the stuff that truly can and does happen that is scariest. The scenes in Stephen King's IT about domestic abuse were the worst in that book. Who cares about clowns?! (well, maybe I shouldn't poo poo the poor clowns...)

    My brother-in-law's girlfriend is a nurse and I was terrified after listening to the cases she worked on just last week. I could NEVER be a nurse. or a doctor or anyone in the healthcare field.

  2. I've never read IT and had no idea there were scarier things in it than that damned clown!

    And oh my gosh, me neither. I had to go to the hospital late last year for some breathing problems and was taken in an ambulance, and I was talking to the EMT about some of the things she's seen. She said that you HAVE to joke/laugh about it, because otherwise it's just too brutal. I couldn't even imagine working in an ambulance or ER.