PACIFIC MONSTERS edited by MARGRET HELGADOTTIR
Ebook, Fox Spirit, 180 pages
Pacific Monsters is the fourth in Fox Spirit’s ongoing series of monster stories collected from all around the world, and with this edition put together from across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that the sea features heavily in a lot of the stories here. It should be noted that Pacific Monsters also takes in monsters from Australia and New Zealand in this case, drawing on both Maori ( “Children of the Mist” by Tihema Baker, A J Fitzwater’s excellently-titled “From the Womb of the Land, our Bones Entwined” )and Aboriginal (“The Legend of Georgie” by Raymond Gates deals with a bunyip and a trio of very dumb students) mythology.
All of the Monsters books have been very strong collections, and Pacific Monsters continues that trend. When reviewing collections I always like to pick out a few highlights, and in this particular volume these are the stories that stood out for me.
“All My Relations” by Bryan Kamdoli Kuwada is a powerful story set in the seas around Hawaii and features as its narrator a kupua, a powerful shapeshifter who can take the form of a shark. The narrator is held by an ancient vow not to eat human flesh, but his resolve is tested when he begins to teach a young boy who has little respect for the sea.
Anthology closer “Into the Sickly Light” by AC Buchanan, which takes place in New Zealand, is based on a local event that occurred in 1965 when a mass later identified as a whale carcass washed up on a New Zealand beach. The “globster” of the story exerts a powerful influence over the local population, and it’s up to young outsider Colleen to save them.
On a lighter note, Simon Dewar’s “Above the Peppermint Trail” is the story of a family and their French nanny who foolishly wander off the trail in a nature reserve and come face to face with Australia’s most savage and feared predator, the deadly and terrifying drop bear…
As always with the Monsters series there’s a graphic element, with two comic strip stories, “I Sindalu” by Gaum-based author Michael Lujan Bevacqua, and the moving “Dinornis” by Octavia Cade, both illustrated by Dave Johnson, and all of the stories have art to accompany them (The large format paperbacks of the series are splendid coffee-table books).
Editor Margret Helgadottir speaks in the introduction about how challenging it was to find authors from the Pacific islands who were able and willing to contribute to the anthology, and although it means the stories incline towards Australia and New Zealand, it’s to Margret’s credit that she’s still managed to pull together such a wide-ranging collection of scary monsters and super creeps. It’s a reminder that no one is safe from the supernatural, even at the furthest edges of the world…