Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Five Best Books Featuring Monsters and/or Ghoulies and Things That Go Bump In the Night

5 Best Books is a Weekly Meme hosted by Cassandra at her blog, INDIEREADERHOUSTON.

First things first: Define monster. I'm using a broad definition of the word.

In truth, almost every mystery and/or thriller I read has some sort of monster in it. A murderer, by definition, is usually a monster. He doesn't necessarily have to have claws or horns or fangs or be covered in fur or scales or whatnot. A monster doesn't always have to be repulsive either. There can be wonderful monsters. (As in my first book choice.) Are we agreed?

I've left off the more obvious monster-type books because I'm saving those for a Halloween post.

Okay, then let's get to my variations on a theme:

1) JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton

I've only read three of Crichton's books - but these three I really enjoyed because the subject matter appealed to me. Besides JURASSIC PARK, I've read THE LOST WORLD and TIMELINE.

In JURASSIC PARK, the 'monsters' are wondrous - dinosaurs brought into the modern age. A 'monstrous' idea that almost immediately goes wrong.  Dinosaurs have already had their time on earth, they don't belong here. But now that they are here, you can hardly blame them if they behave according to their genetic instructions. They intrude. We intrude. It's a clash destined for a bad end.

2) KRAKEN by China Mieville

A religion that worships giant squids is only one of the 'monstrous' ideas put forth by the sharply inventive mind of China Mieville. His style is commonly defined as  'the new wierd'. But I just call it monstrously inventive.

The Kraken of the title is a desiccated Giant Squid being exhibited in London's Natural History Museum where Billy Harrow is the mollusks curator. When the the squid and the tank full of chemicals in which his intact monstrousness floats, is somehow whisked from the museum practically under the noses of Billy and the staff, it is the beginning of an apocalyptic adventure the likes of which very few of us have ever encountered.

Though somewhat confusing in scope, especially near the end, this remains a terrific dystopian read full of stunningly vibrant ideas, visuals and thoroughly vile and icky villains.

One of my favorites ideas posited by the author: that somehow the ocean comes visiting on dry land. Staying - intact - at a house in London. How this can happen - who knows? You have to read it.


Though I enjoyed the series as a whole, my favorites  (besides THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN)
are the last two massive tomes which I consumed in one great orgy of reading.

And I ask you - who is a bigger or fiercer monster than he who must not be named?  Well, what the heck, I'll go ahead and name him anyway: Voldemort.

4) RELIC by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

A monstrous killer on the loose in NYC's American Museum of Natural History. The police are baffled. It appears the killings are the work of some half man/half lizard relic brought back from the Amazon - part of the new Amazonian exhibit about to open at the Museum.

Very few do eerie in the dead of night better than Preston and Child. Their books are not great literature, just terrific thrilling tales usually involving a deranged killer with an inventive (and often incredible) modus operandi encased inside a labyrinth of outrageous clues and fantastic plot twists.

I love a dark tale that takes place in a museum. I always imagine that a museum in the dead of night would not be the cheeriest place to be. I read RELIC ages ago and as usual, most of it exists in a fuzzy haze in my brain, but I think this is the oh-so-eccentric FBI agent Pendergast's debut.

5) KEEPING THE DEAD by Tess Gerritsen (I read this when it had another and better title, THE KEEPSAKE.)

Another murder in a museum thriller, perfect for an October night. This time it's Boston's Crispin Museum where, in a dusty corner, a forgotten mummy is found. But the contents turn out to be most emphatically NOT two thousand years old. Instead, they are the remains of a modern day murder victim.

When another 'mummy' victim turns up in another dark corner of the museum, who will stop the Archeology Killer? Boston's crime fighting duo, forensic pathologist Maura Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli are called in to solve this strangest of cases.


  1. I liked your choice of monster books and I'm glad you placed JURASSIC PARK right at the top. Crichton, whose death was as untimely as that of Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs, was a highly versatile writer as evident from three of his books I've read - JURASSIC PARK, AIRFRAME AND DISCLOSURE. Absolutely nothing in common there.

    I read the first 5 HARRY POTTER BOOKS and with it ended my adventures with The Boy Who Lived. He grows up too fast, too soon in the remaining two decisive books, which I intend reading some day. Yes, THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN is my favourite too. For one, it's got more monsters too - Voldemort, Buckbeak, Scabbers (pettigrew), Hippogriffs, werewolf (Lupin), and Grimm (Sirius Black).

    Among the other books, I'm fascinated by KRAKEN.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Now how could I forget the Dementors? What an imagination, what a name!

    I deleted the second comment as it was a repeat of the first - my mistake.

  4. Some nice titles here! My friend was just telling me that I have to read Kraken. And Relic is a great thriller. Certainly not literary but a lot of fun.

  5. Prashant: I actually found the last two books in the Harry Potter series, the best of the bunch. Perhaps the best written. But maybe that's just me. :)

    J.K. Rowling is, in so many ways, a creative genius. I don't even resent that she's made millions. She earned it all on her own. By the sweat of her creative imagination.

    Yes, Crichton was gone too soon.

    KRAKEN is a fantastic sort of story which, by the end, kind of runs off the rails, but the journey is an incredible one.

  6. Red: I would recommend also reading China Mieville's THE CITY AND THE CITY, besides KRAKEN.

    He's a heck of a writer.

  7. You know, I didn't really love The City and The City. I thought it had potential but it didn't grab me the way I hoped it would.

  8. Really? That's too bad, Red. I loved it. There was a wonderful book discussion over on author Laurie King's blog and she was able to get China Mieville to answer our written questions. Very illuminating.

    But don't let that put you off KRAKEN, which is a very different sort of book. :)

  9. Great orgies of reading are the best! Although, I must admit to never attempting one in the usual sense of the term, but I'm going to just assume I'd like lots of great reading more than feeling obligated to have sex with lots of strangers! :-/

    I like that you've suggested some museum books. I am totally in love with them, too! I think it's from reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler at an impressionable age.

  10. Yvette, I did exactly the same thing with the last 2 Harry Potter books. I just devoured them in a very short space of time! I have read the whole series twice now.

    I've read all of the books you talk about except Keeping the Dead and The Kraken, both of which are now on my library list! Loved this post!

  11. Oops! Forgot to mention...The Kraken, especially the phrase you use: A religion that worships giant squids is only one of the 'monstrous' ideas..." reminds me very much of H.P. Lovecraft. He wrote many very frightening stories, a lot of which had to do with ancient religions of weird creatures!

  12. Lauren: Ha! Not for me, either.

    Yes, books set in museums always catch my eye. Love 'em.

    I've got Thomas Hoving's memoir of heading the Metropolitan Museum of Art right here waiting to be read.

  13. Becky: Thanks! I loved writing it. I truly do enjoy my blog. :)

    KRAKEN is a very wierd book, not like anything I've ever read before. I've never read any Lovecraft. At least, not yet.

    The more I blog the more I realize how many books I haven't read. It's daunting.

    China Mieville has two new books out now and who knows when I'll get the chance to read them...
    Have you read THE CITY AND THE CITY? My intro to Mieville. Loved it.

    Tims is a'flying!
    Tick tock, tick tock...!


Your comment will appear after I take a look.