Double Feature Monster Show

As promised, there’s a pair of monsters in Mark Cassell’s new short story digest. Both abominations were frightful, but in particular, the post-human freak from “Reanimation Channel” was insanely frightful.

Creating and describing monsters must be a lot of fun for writers. Yet I’m constantly disappointed by authors who never get 100 percent cozy with their creations. Sometimes these beautiful creatures lurk in the shadows for the entire story. Only at the very end are they revealed—and usually in the most vague and mundane way possible.

I keep thinking about the oversized mutant fish from The Host (2006). That fucker appeared early in the film and terrorized people nonstop during the day and night. As far as I’m concerned, The Host was made for people (like me) who love monsters. That’s what I’m looking for in the books I read too.

When “Reanimation Channel” begins, the monster was shocking, but still in the process of transmutation. It was a Frankenstein-like monstrosity, part-human, part-dog and part bird. “Wires and circuits wove through swollen flesh,” wrote Cassell. “Its head was a mess of what was perhaps a German shepherd fused with a bearded man. Vein-y membranous wings extended behind its torso.”

But that’s not how the patchwork chimera looked at the end of the story. In just 25 pages, the author pumped up his monster’s physical structure to an extravagant level. I don’t want to spoil the dramatic finale, but the fiend eventually morphs into an insane fusion of metal and plastic, discarded lottery tickets, K-Cup pods, Pringles cans, smartphone batteries, driftwood and machinery, pebbles and cockles, fur, feathers and flesh—not just human flesh, but that of varying species of mammal including eagles, bulls, turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales. It was, said the author, “an absolute abomination of nature.”

The monster in “Reanimation Channel” was an amazing behemoth—a testament to Cassell’s untamed imagination. As a reader, you can feel his enthusiasm on every page. As a monster fan, you never doubt his dedication to the genre.

The author kicks off his collection with an amphibious creature prowling the waters of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. “River of Nine Tails” had a bizarre mythological beast at it’s core, but the story was carefully deliberate because it contained some relevancy to the author’s personal life. As Cassell admitted upfront, his stories were about the monsters you saw. Wherever they might be.

[Monster Double Feature: River of Nine Tails / Reanimation Channel / By Mark Cassell / First Printing: August 2020 / ISBN: 9780993060182]