Sunday, September 14, 2014

My review of Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas. Another exceptional read! Take a look!

cover art for the German edition of Monstrocity
It was with great anticipation that I recently bought myself a return ticket to the city known as Punktown. Said ticket being Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas, his first full length novel set in the Punktown series. Originally published in 2003 by Prime Books, I chose this entry because I wanted to read some of the older stories set in this universe, and because I was intrigued by the fact that it was a full length novel. My previous experience with this ongoing series was the recent collection of interlinked stories, Ghosts of Punktown. After reading Ghosts (here's a link to my review, if you haven't checked it out), I was hooked on both the setting, and Jeffrey's writing in general. I knew it wouldn't be long before I returned to the planet Oasis, and the urban sprawl of the mega-city known by outsiders and the gentry as Paxton, and as Punktown by it's true inhabitants... the ordinary people, trying to make a living amongst the lost, the forgotten, the predators, and the insane. Buried in this chaos, you will find tales of love, of redemption, and of disparate beings coming together to forge a unity against the darkness that is lurking just around the corner, waiting in the angles of space and time. A union that will shine a faint light out into the universe, and grow into a beacon of hope, a rallying point for any rational being. Monstrocity tells one such tale, and it tells it very well...

Christopher Ruby is a shy, unassuming type of guy. When, by pure chance, he meets the beautiful Gabrielle, he believes that his life is finally looking up. Gabrielle, however, has some rather strange interests that soon lead to the first in a series of tragic events. A recording of a set of occult incantations has fallen into her possession, which will purportedly call up a demon, if certain conditions are met. While he is, at first, totally against the idea, Christopher eventually gives in hoping to please his girlfriend. The ritual doesn't seem to work, and he has a good laugh and then heads to bed. Awakened by a strange feeling during the night, he finds that Gabrielle has performed the ritual again, and that there is something distressingly... odd about her. Soon after, she disappears, and Christopher frantically attempts to locate her. Along the way, he begins researching the origin of the incantation that started the whole series of events. He eventually discovers that the author was a certain human from Old Earth, apparently of Arab descent. A man by the name of Abdul Alhazred... He soon begins seeing strange apparitions out of the corner of his eye, and has the feeling that he is constantly being watched. His life is gradually taken over by an intense feeling of paranoia, and he begins a swift descent into madness.

The story of Christopher Ruby is stifling, intense, and claustrophobic, and quite intricately detailed. A tale of an ordinary man, thrown into an extraordinary situation, through no fault of his own. A man who just wants things to be as they were, but eventually realizes, that there is no going back. At the beginning of the story, there isn't much to set Christopher apart, to draw you into the character. As the story unfolds, however, he begins to grow and show unexpected depths of both character, and willpower. From his initial quest to rescue his love and return everything to normalcy, his motives turn more towards reaping a horrible vengeance on those responsible for destroying his life. His desire for revenge slowly fades as he begins to grasp the scope of the forces that he is up against, both those from outside our dimension, and the beings that serve them, here in our realm. He begins to realize that, even though he is not the best choice to be a savior, he has been chosen, simply because he KNOWS. In KNOWING, he automatically becomes responsible for DOING. Once he comes to grips with this idea, he starts along a highly selfless path. With no help in sight, the question becomes, quite simply put, will he survive long enough to make an actual difference. The author takes his time in really building up the personality of his protagonist, and rendering him as a perfect example of fallible humanity. The qualities of perseverance, selflessness, and the ability to think beyond the concept of 'I', and serve a greater good are rather remarkably illustrated within the story.

Along with the quality of his characterization, Jeffrey also excels when it comes down to the portraying the details contained within the story(as I mentioned in my opening statement of the previous paragraph). Whether it is something that is normally quite simplistic, such as describing the characters surroundings (there were a number of these descriptions that I found to be quite profound, and a work of art, in and of itself); or in the attention given to various species history, culture, appearance, and unique behaviors, he goes above and beyond the norm. Quite masterful, I must say. The photo-realistic depiction of every aspect of Punktown could lead one to believe that, possibly, this is a real place and that the author is a frequent traveler to the planet of Oasis. Truthfully, the level of characterization, and of description, could easily be a travelogue, if one were to remove the more fantastic aspects of the story. There is no need for a suspension of disbelief, just start reading and you'll find yourself definitely transported to another world. This quality to totally submerse a reader in a story is very rare, and Jeffrey Thomas possesses said ability in spades. It's one of the reasons that Punktown is quickly becoming one of my favorite fictional destinations to visit. Heck, I'd buy a ticket and make my home there, if Jeffrey would let me...

To sum up my ramblings, this is an outstanding, well thought out and executed, absolutely engaging story. There are many highly adult themes and situations contained within it's pages, but we're all adults here. It's so rare to come across a concept that is so effectively realized, so fluid in it's execution, that you you have to step back to truly appreciate the total depth of what you've been reading. Monstrocity is one of these releases, and I highly recommend that you take a look at this entry, and at the series as a whole. For that matter, just go out and pick up a story by Jeffrey Thomas. You'll be amazed by the sights that he will show you... 

Here's the product page on Amazon. Here's Jeffrey's author page on Amazon. Finally, here's Jeffrey's site. Why don't you take some time to stop by and look around? A great number of excellent stories are contained there, just waiting for you to discover them. With that, I'll sign off. As usual, happy reading!

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