Katrina Monroe and the Dark Side of Fiction

Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and professional haterologist. Her favorite things to hate include socks that fall down, grape-flavored anything, and the color 'salmon.' Grab her books here.

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From the cover:

A Lee Martinez delivers his first short story collection, featuring ten original tales based on his previous fantasy and science fiction novels. If you're a Martinez fan, this collection is surely something you've been waiting for. If you're simply Martinez curious (and who isn't) this is a great sampling of strange worlds of fantasy featuring talking gorillas, sensible housekeeping kobolds, cosmic monster gods, and world-conquering space squids. These all-new, all-different tales are available for the first time. Within you'll find tales of werewolf versus bigfoot, ogre versus wizard, and rock alien versus romantic entanglement. You'll experience a terrifying descent into madness via pizza delivery and the existential angst of the gods of death. You'll discover why it's a bad idea to feed the pixies and why it's a good idea to always bring along a magical broom on your adventures. A collection eight years in the making (and worth every year), Robots versus Slime Monsters might not actually have any stories where a robot fights a slime monsters, but it does feature a gorilla wrestling a lion. And in the end, isn't that almost as good?


            We all think about it—giving the spotlight over to our more beloved secondary characters, or to the characters with such big personalities they clamor to the front of the line when the New Idea forms. A. Lee Martinez delivers with this collection based on the fan favorites (and a few of his own).


            Bigfoot Dreams (based on GIL’S ALL FRIGHT DINER) is chock full of my favorite part of any story—witty dialogue. The banter between a vampire, ghost, werewolf, and a few others that balance the line between supernatural and not-so-much is quick, clever, and is prime chuckle material. A lot of imaginative lore is incorporated into this story without an info dump, showcasing Martinez’s depth of knowledge into his own worlds.


            In Wizard Bait (based on IN THE COMPANY OF OGRES), we plunge head-first into Martinez’s signature “relatable” fantasy style. It’s easy to get caught up in the story because of how true to life the characters are (despite their less-than-human states). The fantastical elements in the story are like little gifts throughout the narrative, which make guarding a dragon’s horde against necromancers and wizards look all in a day’s work.


            It’s not often you read a story with a (typically) inanimate object at the helm. Penelope and the Willful Blade (based on A NAMELESS WITCH) is an unusual and funny read. When I read the novel, the witch always reminded of Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series; even in her small role in Penelope’s tale, she leaves the same impression. Penelope and her witch will always be among my favorite girls.


            Most people know Martinez for his novel THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE, which Greyback in Blue is based on. Like Wizard Bait, this story is one of the best examples of Martinez’s subtle fantasy while also showing his genre flexibility. I’m a sucker for detective types (The Doctor, House M.D., Sherlock Holmes) so characters like Mack and Joe are natural favorites. I only wish Joe had gotten the girl, as creepy and flawed as she was.


            Death, Dust, and Other Inconveniences (based on TOO MANY CURSES) sounds a lot like the title to my memoir. This story has a delightful cast of characters a reader would be all too pleased to clear the cobwebs with. The castle and its inhabitants are a catchall of magical throwaways, providing a range of characters with distinct voices that make for an easy to follow, dialogue-heavy narrative.


            Work Ethic is based on the novel, MONSTER, which was my first foray into the mind of A. Lee Martinez and I haven’t looked back since. This is a character with attitude. He’s seen things. Given his particular vocation of rounding up hard-to-handle cryptos, the reader can only imagine what those things might be and when we might get the chance to see them for ourselves.


            My Dinner with Ares (based on DIVINE MISFORTUNE) does what many writers in the fantasy genre do—take on the gods and bend them to our will. But Martinez does this in a way that’s unique. He makes them boring, like us mortals. That they happen to have incredible power is like being born with a talent for fruit cake baking—not a curse, exactly, but not a blessing, either.


            Whatever you do, don’t read Pizza Madness (based on CHASING THE MOON) during a late-night, booze-fueled pizza gorge session. My diet thanks you, Mr. Martinez, for making pizza truly horrifying.


            One of Martinez’s strengths is capturing the awkwardness that inevitably develops between people, whether they’re strangers or brothers. Many writers glaze over it, but in Cindy and Cragg (based on EMPORER MOLLUSK VERSUS THE SINISTER BRAIN), he puts it up in neon, which makes for truly interesting fiction.


            Imogen’s Epic Day (based on HELEN AND TROY’S EPIC ROAD QUEST) is my favorite in this collection. Take the Hero Journey, break it down, and task the government with regulating it, and you’ve got Imogen’s Epic Day. Or anyone’s epic day for that matter, depending on the will of fate. Or an agent of fate. This is the kind of story that makes you think anyone can be a hero, but soon you realize being called to a quest is a bit like being called to jury duty.

            Overall, this is a collection for the fans. Martinez’s readers will find unique pleasure is seeing their favorite characters in their long-overdue curtain call, while newcomers will find a reason to pick up one of the novels. 

Book Review: Robots Versus Slime Monsters

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