BOOK REVIEW - Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

on Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Not Yet Available in the US for Purchase


As previously stated, I really liked I Am Not a Serial Killer. Dan's prose is exceptionally good, and his main character, John Wayne Cleaver, is both creepy and endearing. Being put in the mind of a potential teen psychopath was great fun, if a bit disturbing, which made it all the better.

It is, therefore, no surprise that I wanted to get Mr. Monster as soon as possible. Apparently, everybody at CONduit wanted it too, because out of a box of UK copies he brought, only three made it to the signing table (which we were the first to, which is why we managed to get one). I took it home, started it that night, and finished it on Sunday afternoon. It seemed a bit shorter than IANASK, which might have been because of the great pacing, or maybe because it actually was shorter.

While IANASK focused more on introducing us to the character, his rules, and then jumping into the main killer plotline, Mr. Monster changes the point, honing in entirely on John and his inner demons. John has a voice in his head, which he cutely titled "Mr. Monster," who is constantly trying to get him to switch over to the dark side, the side where he kills and tortures people.

It's often described as a "need," something he has to feed in order to keep it intact. He does this, primary, by burning things away from his home. But, like how an alcoholic won't be content with virgin drinks, Mr. Monster can only take these petty offerings for so long. John starts to go crazy.

It's interesting, because while there is a lot of death in the book, it is considerably tamer than the first one. Until the last fifty-odd pages. See, John just wants to live a normal life, so the first portions of the book are focused on his inner battles. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a book without a serial killer for John to contend with, so that conflict shows up near the end.

And that's where things get really creepy, and the reason Dan Wells is only allowed to come into my apartment during daylight hours.

Dan has said countless time, on podcasts, panels, and more, that Mr. Monster isn't as violent as IANASK, but it is more disturbing. I wasn't ready to agree with him until the final act of the book, and now I full-heartedly endorse that statement. Mr. Monster takes a turn for the extremely dark and, while not violent per-say, the ideas and things the killer does are very twisted and disturbed. It's very clever, and very scary.

Another thing Mr. Monster does better than the first book is the idea of letting the reader's imagination fill in the horrible, scary details. In most scenes of IANASK, we either saw the direct aftermath of the killings, or the killings themselves. In Mr. Monster, Dan uses the age old idea behind horror: what you can't see is the scariest. When you know something bad is happening, and the character knows, but neither of you can see it, you automatically think of the worst things possible. Being a huge horror fan, in both movies and video games, I can assure you what I believed was going out just out of my line of sight was certainly not YA rated.

That is where Mr. Monster really shines: what Dan presents is very disturbing, but what he doesn't present is completely terrifying. It makes IANASK seem remarkably tame in comparison, probably because he took everything we'd learned from the first book and one-uped it in every regard.

My only complaint was the ending, specifically the final page. I won't spoil it, but it seems to end a little too happy. For those who have read IANASK, they know the ending has closure, but it also maintains that creepy, uncertain nature that permeates the book. Mr. Monster ties up its endings too nicely, and while it leaves one open for the third book, most of the main points seem resolved. I'm curious to see how the third book, I Don't Want to Kill You, will fare. It's going to be hard to top Mr. Monster.

For those looking to jump into this series, note that you really can't read Mr. Monster without reading IANASK first; you'll have no idea what is going on. Also, for my poor friend who couldn't get past the first chapter in IANASK for the autopsy scenes, there's only one in Mr. Monster, and while it made me cringe (cutting into neck arteries is a little gross), I felt it was tamer overall.

Once again, Dan's pacing and prose is near-immaculate. He seems to always pick the perfect words for every scene, and the story keeps going at just the right rate, giving you little time to breathe before throwing you into the next scene. Dan really has a gift for this, and his style fits perfectly for shorter books. Being able to read through this entire book in 3-4 hours is fantastic, doesn't burn me out, and leaves me wanting more.

I highly suggest that you look into this series (starting with I Am Not a Serial Killer, of course), so that you can read this fantastic follow-up novel. While many sophomore books in trilogies fall hard, Dan has his Empire Strikes Back here with Mr. Monster. Riveting, fast paced, and even more disturbing than the first, Mr. Monster is great.

Also, I'd suggest you not let your kids read it until they are at least 15+. I was going to say 17+, but then I remembered what I read back in the day (I read Jurassic Park when I was 10), so I guess I'm not one to judge. Just know the ending bits of the books are straight out of a horror movie, and if you are ok with your kids reading that, go for it.


Anonymous said...

Ugh, horror. I am such a wuss when it comes to that.

I remember when I was about ten I found a book called "The Other Side of the Mountain" which my grandmother had handed down to me through some gross lapse of judgement. It's not the story about the boy with the bird. It's about weird stuff that goes wrong and ends with the main characters cemented to the inside of a caldera, forever gazing into the gigantic eye of Lucifer. I still remember that.

Please don't ever write horror! 'Cause then I'll have to read it and then I'll feel bad.

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