ASIAN MONSTERS by MARGRET HELGADOTTIR (ed)
PB, 167 pages, Fox Spirit
Buy Asian Monsters on Amazon.
Asian Monsters is the third volume in Fox Spirit’s ongoing series of illustrated coffee-table books exploring monster myths from all corners of the globe. This edition is ably edited by Margret Helgadottir, who is a very fine SF writer in her own right (I urge you to check out The Stars Seem So Far Away), and she’s done a great job of drawing together a diverse set of stories from across the continent, from Pakistan to the Philippines. (If I have one small complaint about the collection it’s that I would have liked to see a story or two from Eastern Russia, but I appreciate that anthology editors can only work with what they get sent.)
Personal highlights of this collection (and there are many, there’s not really a duff story here – I wasn’t wildly taken with the graphic novel sections but that’s my own personal taste, you may enjoy them) include”Good Hunting” by Ken Liu, a story of a hulijing ( a nine tailed fox spirit) given a brassy steampunk sheen, “Kokuri’s Palace” by Yukimi Ogawa, in which a narrator haunted by the death of a loved one offers themself to a creature who wears the skin of the dead and lived in a temple woven from human hair, and “Golden Lilies” by Aliette de Bodard, about a possessive ancestor-spirit and a great-grandchild who asks a terrible favour.
There are some promising up-and-coming authors here too, notably Fran Terminiello (“Aswang” – a vengeful spirit runs wild in a Hong Kong apartment block) and Isabel Yap with “Glass Cradle, Glass Lullaby”, a disturbing story about a tiyanak, a malevolent spirit that takes the form of a baby.
One thing that struck me about this collection was the way that the spirits move through our modern world – most of the stories are set in contemporary times and concern modern subjects – from cupcake shops (“The Vetala’s Query” by Sunil Patel) to suicide bombers (the unsettling “Blood Women” by Usman T Malik). It’s a sharp reminder that even now, not far below the surface sheen of civilisation, monsters are lurking…