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ASIAN MONSTERS by MARGRET HELGADOTTIR (ed)

PB, 167 pages, Fox Spirit

Buy Asian Monsters on Amazon.

Asian monsters cover

Cover art by Daniele Serra

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…

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