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Boys, Beasts & Men

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In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave th In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave them wanting more. “Miller’s sheer talent shines through in abundance . . . Boys, Beasts & Men is an outrageous journey which skillfully blends genres and will haunt you with its original, poetic voices as much as its victims, villains, and treasure trove of leading actors.” —Grimdark Magazine Despite his ability to control the ambient digital cloud, a foster teen falls for a clever con-man. Luring bullies to a quarry, a boy takes clearly enumerated revenge through unnatural powers of suggestion. In the aftermath of a shapeshifting alien invasion, a survivor fears that he brought something out of the Arctic to infect the rest of the world. A rebellious group of queer artists create a new identity that transcends even the anonymity of death. Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City, The Art of Starving) shows his savage wit, unrelenting candor, and lush imagery in this essential career retrospective collection, taking his place alongside legends of the short-fiction form such as Carmen Maria Machado, Carson McCullers, and Jeff VanderMeer.


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In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave th In Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller’s devastating debut short-fiction collection, featuring an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, queer infatuation, inevitable heartbreak, and brutal revenge seamlessly intertwine. Whether innocent, guilty, or not even human, the boys, beasts, and men roaming through Miller’s gorgeously crafted worlds can destroy readers, yet leave them wanting more. “Miller’s sheer talent shines through in abundance . . . Boys, Beasts & Men is an outrageous journey which skillfully blends genres and will haunt you with its original, poetic voices as much as its victims, villains, and treasure trove of leading actors.” —Grimdark Magazine Despite his ability to control the ambient digital cloud, a foster teen falls for a clever con-man. Luring bullies to a quarry, a boy takes clearly enumerated revenge through unnatural powers of suggestion. In the aftermath of a shapeshifting alien invasion, a survivor fears that he brought something out of the Arctic to infect the rest of the world. A rebellious group of queer artists create a new identity that transcends even the anonymity of death. Sam J. Miller (Blackfish City, The Art of Starving) shows his savage wit, unrelenting candor, and lush imagery in this essential career retrospective collection, taking his place alongside legends of the short-fiction form such as Carmen Maria Machado, Carson McCullers, and Jeff VanderMeer.

30 review for Boys, Beasts & Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. Urgh, there needs to be a word for, like, that sinking feeling you get when you’re not the right person to review a book but you kind of have to try because them are the rules. So let me start off by saying: I am not the right person to be talking about this book. First off, I admire short stories more than I enjoy Source of book: NetGalley (thank you) Relevant disclaimers: none Please note: This review may not be reproduced or quoted, in whole or in part, without explicit consent from the author. Urgh, there needs to be a word for, like, that sinking feeling you get when you’re not the right person to review a book but you kind of have to try because them are the rules. So let me start off by saying: I am not the right person to be talking about this book. First off, I admire short stories more than I enjoy them—and I really shouldn’t be reading them, except I know they’re a, y’know, a thing and I do kind of think it’s important to keep pushing against the boundaries of what limits your own interactions with art. Secondly, this was my first experience with this author, which is entirely my own ignorance I hasten to add and not a weird dig (the first 10% of his book is literally page after page after page of how brilliant he is, followed by an introduction from Amal El-Mohtar), and I don’t think Boys, Beasts and Men is necessarily the best introduction to his work: some of the stories actively reference his other work and I guess there’s part of me that always feels a short story is, like, a quickie in the fire escape with an author. Whereas with a novel they take you home, make you breakfast in the morning and sometimes promise to call. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that I wanted to love these stories and I didn’t love them. I admired them, I appreciated what they were doing, I recognised the talent of the author: didn’t quite get what I was looking for emotionally-speaking. Which, y’know, is my own damn fault for going for a quickie in the fire escape. What these stories are, though, is incredibly queer. Although, to me, it felt a very US-centric understanding of queerness, both in terms of the cultural reference points, and the aspects of identity it took as foundational. I hasten to add that this is an observation, not a criticism, but I found it genuinely interesting the degree to which I felt simultaneously spoken to and alienated. The alienation, I think, sprang not from the differences (I think the degree to which queerness not just internally but externally is something we don’t talk about enough in our rush to crowd-sourced homogenisation) but for what I came across to me as the unquestioned assumption that these experiences and touches were universal. Anyway, these stories are all queer, set in a SFnal aligned version of the world as we might just about be able to recognise it, and united by themes that, err, when I wrote them out just looked like a list of abstract concepts. But, like, love, prejudice, masculinity, beauty, tenderness, violence, exploitation examined through this explicitly queer lens. While the stories are not connected, or even set in same time or within the same vision of the future, they build on each other and reflect each other like a good concept album. There’s a framing device, too, in which a young man in bar picks up or is picked up a hot but faintly sinister stranger who … uh … forgive the slightly inelegant word choice … infects him with the power of stories. It works but it also feels a bit blunt. And, honestly, I think working but feeling a bit blunt is where I’m at with most of these stories? The least successful of them, while beautifully written, ended up feel either one step too obscure (Sun in an Empty Room, for example, is told from the perspective of a couch, which, and forgive the failure of empathy here, didn’t end up doing much for me personally) or one step too obvious (Shucked is a privilege-metaphor body-stealing story). And the ones that really drew me in tended to leave me wanting more in the unsatisfied rather than tantalised sense. We Are The Cloud, for example, posits a Black Mirror-esque future NYC where the impoverished essentially sell their brain processing power to companies. Between that, and the bare sketch of a relationship between the narrator and another, I felt I was kind of licking the bones of this story. Similarly, The Beast We Want To Be is set in Russia during the Communist revolution: there’s this truly horrific toxic masculinity allegory backstory type thing where young men are conditioned via devices called Pavlov’s Boxes to embody the ideals of the State and, maybe, develop super powers. Part of the plot here involves the relationship between the narrator and his immediate superior, a kind of Pavlov’s Boxes wunderkind. Unfortunately, much like We Are The Cloud, the relationship so very lightly sketched that its impact on the narrator felt muted and insufficient to drive the action of the story beyond its themes of resistance, surrender, and loss. And I do kind of realise that I’m sitting here probably sounding like I have a terminal case of romance reader being like “but I needed more from the relationships”. But relationships—or if not relationships then connections—are, like, a theme, dammit. Like, a major deal is the way empathy can act as form of resistance, even rebellion, against the various forces that seek to control marginalised people, whether that’s social or government, or even just personal hate or prejudice. For me, the story I liked best—and I sincerely fell in love with this one—was also the one that, on the surface, seems least calculated to appeal to me. Conspicuous Plumage is set in the aftermath of a murderous gay-bashing. The heroine (the victim’s sister) goes on a sort of road trip to the place where her brother died in order to come to terms both with the way he died and with his loss. It’s sort of anti-revenge story (in contrast to one of the earlier stories, 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides, which is also kind of anti-revenge story but told as a revenge story and, again, to me ran aground on its own brevity) and (with the exception of When Your Child Strays From God which I liked but found one-step too blunt) I think the most explicitly hopeful of all of the stories in the collection. Again, this probably says more about me than about the stories. I’m aware it’s probably odd to describe a story about some girl’s murdered gay brother “hopeful” but it doesn’t, you know, dwell, and the magical elements (everyone just kind of has powers maybe) functioned well in metaphor-space without feeling like they needed more detail. This is very directly a story about empathy, not so much empathy for people who commit terrible acts, but about being open to the beauty and the vulnerability of those around you even in the wake of grief. Of all the relationships in these stories, I found the ostensibly straight one between a dead gay boy’s bereaved sister and the damaged boy she convinces to take her to the site of her brother’s murder the most affecting. It’s unexpectedly tender and—unlike many of the other relationships portrayed in these stories—allows both characters to recognise each other’s pain in ways that allow for meaningful connection, not just exploitation: There was no safe answer. Nothing that wouldn’t hurt him. Nothing that wouldn’t crack that lovely face down the middle. I’d been about to say I don’t know, it’s just something I overheard someone saying, but I saw now that this would hurt him even more. Even if it was the truth. To be reminded that he was gossiped about, to hear again how stories were passed from stranger to stranger, would be too devastating for fragile, private, little Hiram Raff. In any case, the more I think about these stories, and the connections between them, the more I find things to appreciate and ponder over. It’s more than enough to make me want to seek out the author’s full-length novels, but not quite enough to help this collection cross the line from something I can recognise the value of into something I unabashedly love for myself. They are, however, impressive in their scope and exquisitely written. And I do think it will be love for many readers. Do check trigger warnings before embarking. Some of these are very dark.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Boys, Beasts & Men is an excellent short story collection. Weird, brutal, and very human, it blends hope and pain, nostalgia, fear, and grief, but with a speculative twist. The stories all contain some kind of speculative element- be it dinosaurs, house spirits, aliens, or a future with a climate apocalypse - they most often center queer men and boys, unflinchingly engaging with homophobia, race, poverty, addiction, death, and the pain of heartbreak. Several of the stories touch on the AIDS cris Boys, Beasts & Men is an excellent short story collection. Weird, brutal, and very human, it blends hope and pain, nostalgia, fear, and grief, but with a speculative twist. The stories all contain some kind of speculative element- be it dinosaurs, house spirits, aliens, or a future with a climate apocalypse - they most often center queer men and boys, unflinchingly engaging with homophobia, race, poverty, addiction, death, and the pain of heartbreak. Several of the stories touch on the AIDS crisis with all of the fear and grief that went with it. One of my favorites was about a Christian mom trying to reach her teen son and come to terms with the fact that he's gay, except she does it through this weird drug that causes shared hallucinations. Miller does an excellent job of showing the nuance and humanity of characters, even those who are broken and deeply flawed. This collection has a lot of variety but feels thematically and tonally pretty cohesive, which can be hard to achieve. The creativity and searing insight create a through line throughout. Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy for review, all opinions are my own. There are a lot of content warnings because these can get quite dark. They include things like child abuse, homophobia, death, violence, etc.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    3.75 (?) stars ish this was really fun and weird im not a big short-story-person because i much more enjoy a tied-together narrative that follows throughout the whole book but i actually really enjoyed this. my main reason for taking off stars is really just that short stories aren’t my thing, but i think if some of these had been full novellas or even novels i would have liked them a LOT. the second to last one in particular was so good. some of the stories are, naturally, much better than some 3.75 (?) stars ish this was really fun and weird im not a big short-story-person because i much more enjoy a tied-together narrative that follows throughout the whole book but i actually really enjoyed this. my main reason for taking off stars is really just that short stories aren’t my thing, but i think if some of these had been full novellas or even novels i would have liked them a LOT. the second to last one in particular was so good. some of the stories are, naturally, much better than some others, but that’s obviously to be expected and i’d like to see any author miraculously write nothing but perfect short stories in a collection (it will never happen). also, this is GAY. like fully out there unequivocally gay throughout every story. and i think the fact that this story collection is a little fucked up kind of adds to it. it’s honestly really annoying when the only LGBT rep is soft cinnamon roll (barf) characters who can do no wrong. i want to see some crazy idiots or people who just make bad choices because they’re people and that’s what they do. anyway, if you’re someone who’s really into short story collections you should read this. it’s weird and messy. thanks to the publicist for providing an advanced readers copy :)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hsinju Chen

    3.5 stars. If light horror speculative fiction is your jam, Boys, Beasts & Men should be on your TBR. There are 15 stories (not including the interstitials) in this collection. The majority of them shared themes of family tension with young gay boys where the parents go to great lengths to fix their relationships, anger and/or injustice manifested as physical forms, AIDS, etc. My favorite story in this collection is “Ghosts of Home,” which, a little ironically, was probably the only story that wasn 3.5 stars. If light horror speculative fiction is your jam, Boys, Beasts & Men should be on your TBR. There are 15 stories (not including the interstitials) in this collection. The majority of them shared themes of family tension with young gay boys where the parents go to great lengths to fix their relationships, anger and/or injustice manifested as physical forms, AIDS, etc. My favorite story in this collection is “Ghosts of Home,” which, a little ironically, was probably the only story that wasn’t on-page queer. As the title suggests, there are ghosts of houses even if no one lives there anymore, and I love how they all have personalities, backstories, and rage. Also, who doesn’t love some good ghost friends? Boys, Beasts & Men is a very angry book. It is essentially about the monster in everyone and the monsters in the society. Miller also did an exceptional job with the interstitials for this collection. Every short scene (a few sentences long) links the preceding and following stories, and by the end, the interstitials come together, too. There were a few times where the author’s choices in writing certain characters gave me a pause, and it was a slight disappointment that all stories are very cis and very gender binary (in terms of language). Overall, I enjoyed Miller’s stories, the way he builds up tension and ties everything to a central theme while introducing prominent speculative elements. I have not previously read any of his works, but upon finishing Boys, Beasts & Men, I will definitely be paying more attention to his stories across different SFF magazines. content warnings: homophobia, racism, AIDS, drug abuse, abusive relationship, gore, sex, slurs (queer: f-slur, d-slur; racist: E*), murder, death, suicidal thoughts, mugging, corporate & government violence against homeless people, animal deaths Buddy read with Gabriella! I received an advanced digital copy from Tachyon Publications and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fizzy

    "When the worst thing you can possibly imagine happens, you're free from the fear of it for the rest of your life. But sometimes the worst thing you can imagine isn't the worst thing that can happen." Reading this book was like riding a ferris wheel for the first time. You've heard it's great, you have been seeing people talking about it in mostly excited tones, you're pretty sure you're going to love it. You've seen it compared in good light with other swings you've loved. But when you finally g "When the worst thing you can possibly imagine happens, you're free from the fear of it for the rest of your life. But sometimes the worst thing you can imagine isn't the worst thing that can happen." Reading this book was like riding a ferris wheel for the first time. You've heard it's great, you have been seeing people talking about it in mostly excited tones, you're pretty sure you're going to love it. You've seen it compared in good light with other swings you've loved. But when you finally get on it, you realise that maybe, you were not the best choice for this experience as you're shit scared of heights and get nauseated way too quickly. What I'm trying to say is - this book was written in a peculiar, beautiful style. I loved the chapter titles. I loved the horror infused into the queer stories. But at the end of the day, I did not enjoy reading this book. Not all short stories made an impact on me, but I still appreciate the message and speculative execution of those messages. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an eARC of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Goran Lowie

    An excellent collection of stories. I read a lot of short stories-- on their own, as part of magazines, anthologies, or collections like this one. This book actually took me quite some time to finish because I kind of hated the first story and dropped it because of that. Having finished it, it feels kind of out of place. I liked the majority of stories in this (which is a rarity for short story collections), but it took me until about 1/3rd into it before I started really loving it. These stories An excellent collection of stories. I read a lot of short stories-- on their own, as part of magazines, anthologies, or collections like this one. This book actually took me quite some time to finish because I kind of hated the first story and dropped it because of that. Having finished it, it feels kind of out of place. I liked the majority of stories in this (which is a rarity for short story collections), but it took me until about 1/3rd into it before I started really loving it. These stories are exactly what's on the tin- exploring boys loving boys, literal beasts and monsters but also the monsters inside of us. It's unabashedly queer, alwas hard-hitting, and although they felt a bit one-note at the beginning it became a varied bunch of stories by the end. Would definitely recommend. Just drop the burger story. INDIVIDUAL REVIEWS FOR EACH STORY: Allosaurus burgers was a funny story, but not really my kind of thing. Feels like a Scalzi short. [2/5] 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides was an excellent Stephen King-esque story in terms of content but more experimental (told through a list). Really enjoyed this one. [4/5] We Are the Cloud was DARK, but not the whole way through. Loved the world. [3.5/5] Conspicuous Plumage A story of grief. A small story told well. Mostly enjoyed the characters in this. [4/5] Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart [4.5] Loved this one. A cab driver gets an inconspicuous guest in his cab... King Kong's girl. Shucked For $10,000, would you give someone control of your body for an hour? Or... Longer? [4/5] The Beasts We Want to Be Exploring superhero-esque experimentation on people during times of war, from the perspective of one who has been experimented on. [3.5/5] Calved [5/5] A tragic story of a father desperately trying to get his son to love him again. When Your Child Strays from God [4/5] This is a great pairing with the previous story! It's about a mother trying to understand her son, and "save" him from the path he's currently on. Paired with some interesting drug concept, it makes for a nice story. Things With Beards [3/5] The Thing story about the monsters inside us. Not bad. Ghosts of Home [4.5] This story feels like a spiritual sequel to Open House on Haunted Hill. It's a similar tale told differently. Houses have spirits, and abandoned houses get lonely. What happens when the 2008 banking crisis hits, and many people lose their home? The Heat of Us: Notes Towards an Oral History [4/5] An alternative history account of Stonewall, where the queer people at Stonewall who fought back were also supernatural. A celebration of celebrations. Angel, Monster, Man [4/5] Another chilling piece, this time about the AIDS epidemic and how the government handled it (read: didn't handle it). An imaginary person, some fictional figurehead for the revolution, seems to become real. Sun in an Empty Room [3/5] A very musical story! DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    DK

    As someone who likes to binge read, this collection of short stories made me slow down and really think about what was happening in each of them. At times depressing and grim, each one is filled with hunger and longing and the urge to connect. They're strange and twisty, portraying worlds and realities subtly different from our own, ones where queer people have the power to start actual fires with their minds and house spirits interact with lonely humans. Some stories leave you wondering if what As someone who likes to binge read, this collection of short stories made me slow down and really think about what was happening in each of them. At times depressing and grim, each one is filled with hunger and longing and the urge to connect. They're strange and twisty, portraying worlds and realities subtly different from our own, ones where queer people have the power to start actual fires with their minds and house spirits interact with lonely humans. Some stories leave you wondering if what was described in the story really took place or not. Days later, I'm still thinking about them, haunted by the possibilities and what ifs. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lily Rooke

    Boys, Beasts & Men is a collection of short stories, loosely tied together through brief interludes between two strangers. It blends genres, but I would largely class the stories as queer spec-fic, focused mostly on the uncanny, with a vaguely disturbing feel. The stories are well-written and thought-provoking, and my star rating reflects my level of enjoyment of the stories as opposed to the quality of the work. Some content warnings I believe should be included in the published version: exploi Boys, Beasts & Men is a collection of short stories, loosely tied together through brief interludes between two strangers. It blends genres, but I would largely class the stories as queer spec-fic, focused mostly on the uncanny, with a vaguely disturbing feel. The stories are well-written and thought-provoking, and my star rating reflects my level of enjoyment of the stories as opposed to the quality of the work. Some content warnings I believe should be included in the published version: exploitation through porn; child abuse; homophobia; use of a homophobic slur. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but certainly regarding the plotlines in We Are The Cloud and The Beasts We Want to Be, I did not expect to read this content, and was not prepared for it in any way, which impacted my enjoyment of the book. Content warnings help readers decide whether the book is an appropriate read for them, and help them prepare beforehand for what they will read, and for the difficult memories that may resurface. Many of the characters included in the stories of Boys, Beasts & Men had a lot of potential, so I felt it was somewhat disappointing to see them in a short story setting. Especially with Nikolai in The Beasts We Want to Be, I wanted so badly to read a novel about him. Due to the length of the stories, I felt there was limited opportunity to engage with the characters, which meant the more disturbing aspects of the stories came across as somewhat gratuitous in my eyes. The length of the stories, and the disparate characters and their lives, meant I struggled to connect to anyone, which for me is a key part of enjoying fiction, and explains my relatively low rating. I thought the stories themselves were well-written, and I would especially recommend them to readers who enjoy speculative fiction. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free eARC of Boys, Beasts & Men. These opinions are my own.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    I was intrigued by the deceptive straightforwardness of the title of Boys, Beasts & Men—after all, mainstream sci-fi has historically been dominated by men writing about men—and was rewarded by the weirdness and queerness that Sam J. Miller brought to the table in this volume of short stories. Many of them have previously appeared in magazines over the years, but when brought together in this volume, the stories definitely gain something from proximity to each other. I honestly liked all of them I was intrigued by the deceptive straightforwardness of the title of Boys, Beasts & Men—after all, mainstream sci-fi has historically been dominated by men writing about men—and was rewarded by the weirdness and queerness that Sam J. Miller brought to the table in this volume of short stories. Many of them have previously appeared in magazines over the years, but when brought together in this volume, the stories definitely gain something from proximity to each other. I honestly liked all of them, though there were a few weaker installments (which still had merit in either concept or execution, depending on what was lacking). My favorites were “Things With Beards” (riffing on “The Thing,” a man comes back from a job in Antarctica unwittingly host to an alien, bringing it into the midst of a New York in the grips of the AIDS epidemic and rising police brutality), “Ghosts of Home” (in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, a woman is employed by a bank to leave offerings to placate the household spirits in foreclosed homes), and “Angel, Monster, Man” (three gay friends invent the fictional persona of Tom Minniq as a pen name for publishing the works of their friends who have died of AIDS, but it soon becomes apparent that their fictional creation has taken on a sinister life of its own). I think I was hoping for something more Angela Carter-esque from this collection, but on the whole it’s more modern-urban-fantasy in style; I’d say in sensibility it often felt similar to N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became and Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War (El-Mohtar actually wrote the introduction to this collection). A lot of urban sci-fi/fantasy, a lot of NYC stories, but also a lot of other material that really contributes to a diverse yet cohesive collection. The pacing was really good; the stories that deserved a little more length got it, and the others were kept short and sweet. Thank you to Tachyon Publications for the NetGalley ARC.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Requested from Netgalley mainly for having an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, who as co-writer as one of the best SF books of the past decade, seemed like a signpost worth following. But once I got stuck in I realised that, Miller having such an unprepossessing name, I had in fact read and really liked two of these stories elsewhere, without the moniker staying in my brain as one worth keeping an eye out for. Hopefully a whole book's worth will be enough to get past that hurdle in future. Those Requested from Netgalley mainly for having an introduction by Amal El-Mohtar, who as co-writer as one of the best SF books of the past decade, seemed like a signpost worth following. But once I got stuck in I realised that, Miller having such an unprepossessing name, I had in fact read and really liked two of these stories elsewhere, without the moniker staying in my brain as one worth keeping an eye out for. Hopefully a whole book's worth will be enough to get past that hurdle in future. Those two were the climate change tragedy Calved, which I couldn't bear to reread, and Things With Beards, which I could. Now, since I first encountered the latter, I have read another current SF writer doing a Thing's-eye sequel/reinterpretation of John Carpenter's icy classic, and if I'm honest, I did prefer the other one. But that was Peter Watts' The Things, so the bar is pretty bloody high here, and Things With Beards is still very good. Also, and this goes for most of the stories here, very gay. Specifically, an angry, revolutionary queerness, the sort which is deeply sceptical of the idea that being able to settle down in suburbia with 2.4 kids like the straights is much of a victory. Occasionally, I wondered if this might not be a bit of an easy fantasy of outsider chic, 'be gay do crimes' badges extended to story length without quite answering which crimes exactly are OK, and why those ones – most notably in The Heat Of Us, which reimagines the Stonewall riot with pyrokinesis. But that's followed by Angel, Monster, Man, which uses a similar timeframe and New York setting to much greater effect, imagining a tulpa of all the talented boys who died too soon and too little known thanks to AIDS, but who doesn't work out quite the way his creators hoped. Here, it's clearer that society's urge to control and the countervailing urge to freely fight and fuck aren't evil and good, but "simply two different forces, two kinds of energy eternally interlocked" – and not only did this story work much better for me, but its light even made its predecessor more satisfying too, as I realised that of course, The Heat Of Us had also shown a cost to that great psychic upwelling, I just hadn't paid it enough attention. There's a lot of that here, stories with surface hooks which seem like they're going to be enough to justify the piece, only to twist around and snap something else into place. Most obviously, the linking narrative which slots between the stories proper, where a lot of modern collections would put author notes (here relegated to the back, but perfectly happy there), and which more than earns its place by leading the reader on with its bite-sized morsels of lust and danger – two things that often intertwine in this collection. Such that I almost feel bad letting on here that as well as all that, it's luring the reader in to do something else altogether too. The opening Allosaurus Burgers is a story that could easily have been done as well-made, broadsheet-praised litfic, about a divorced couple and their kid, the way they've all been damaged by the situation – but as Miller's note correctly observes, dinosaurs always make a story better, and it's immeasurably improved for having them all displaced from the tale's centre by a time-lost dinosaur with more personality than the models ever had, "Curious and mistrustful, not particularly smart, a little like a seagull that wants to steal your food." There's a glimpse of Ann Darrow's life after the events of King Kong, half-echoing Caitlin Kiernan's Ape's Wife, and a piece narrated by a sofa, but over and over two themes recur: the terrifying allure of sex, and the utter shittiness of late capitalism. Which, let's face it, are both pretty big deals, aren't they, as themes go? As the story in which children in care rent out their headspace for cloud storage puts it, "Any business model based around poor people making bad decisions out of ignorance and desperation always works." Though I think my favourite treatment of the theme was the one in which the obscenity of the sub-prime mortgage crisis is rendered in even sharper relief by taking place in a world where household gods are a recognised fact of life. And then just when you're starting to get a wee bit worried because of how for too many people nowadays, this legitimate disgust with capitalism can tip over into forgiving the sins of the other lot, there's the reassurance of The Beasts We Want To Be, though this is probably the only sense in which it could be described as reassuring, given it's a memorably brutal affair in which Pavlov Boxes make the Russian Revolution even more of a hideous betrayal of the people it purported to help than it was in our world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    Boys, Beasts & Men was an intriguing collection of tales tenuously linked by short snatches of another story interspersed between them. The stories certainly contained some interesting concepts and ideas, all within the loose genre of speculative fiction, and I enjoyed that aspect of this collection. A couple of the stories caught my attention, but for the most part, although I found these tales intellectually interesting, I never really engaged with them on a deeper level, so I was always readi Boys, Beasts & Men was an intriguing collection of tales tenuously linked by short snatches of another story interspersed between them. The stories certainly contained some interesting concepts and ideas, all within the loose genre of speculative fiction, and I enjoyed that aspect of this collection. A couple of the stories caught my attention, but for the most part, although I found these tales intellectually interesting, I never really engaged with them on a deeper level, so I was always reading at something of a distance, without much emotional connection. As such, I am giving this book three and a half stars. It was an interesting collection featuring some unique ideas, but while there was nothing wrong with the writing, I just never fully got into the stories for some reason. I received this book as a free eBook ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Natalia

    This short story collection was wonderfully queer, weird and packed a punch. I was positively surprised by this anthology. I genuinely found myself enjoying majority of the stories. Sam J. Miller's excellent writing brought to life many interesting characters, that very much felt like real people. Intriguing and twisted plot that kept you interested, and melancholy atmosphere that amplified the stories in all the right places. All while discussing many important topics. This was my first introduc This short story collection was wonderfully queer, weird and packed a punch. I was positively surprised by this anthology. I genuinely found myself enjoying majority of the stories. Sam J. Miller's excellent writing brought to life many interesting characters, that very much felt like real people. Intriguing and twisted plot that kept you interested, and melancholy atmosphere that amplified the stories in all the right places. All while discussing many important topics. This was my first introduction to Sam J. Miller's writing. Although some stories were more to my taste than the others, there was not a single story that I disliked. This collection definitely sparked my interest in his full length novels and I will check them out in the future. Thank you very much to Tachyon Publications for an advanced reading copy!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rowen H.

    The range and variety in this book absolutely fascinates me - there were stories that I found captivating and fresh, ones that unsettled me, and some that didn't hit for me. There was occasionally a sort of whiplash moving from wildly different stories, and I didn't always connect with what was happening stylistically, but the sheer extent to which it kept me on my toes is something I really respect. I really enjoyed the story notes at the end, as well, and I've been convinced to read Miller's o The range and variety in this book absolutely fascinates me - there were stories that I found captivating and fresh, ones that unsettled me, and some that didn't hit for me. There was occasionally a sort of whiplash moving from wildly different stories, and I didn't always connect with what was happening stylistically, but the sheer extent to which it kept me on my toes is something I really respect. I really enjoyed the story notes at the end, as well, and I've been convinced to read Miller's other work as soon as I have the time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Harris

    Boys, Beasts and Men contains fourteen of Miller's short stories, linked into a meta-narrative by brief linking sections which seem to follow an encounter and exchange between two men ('I follow him out of the bar with no idea what kind of tale I'm stepping into'). Some of the stories arise more or less directly from what the two are doing or saying, while others make more sense in hindsight. The nature of the exchange itself, though, only slowly becomes clear and I don't want to spoil it. The st Boys, Beasts and Men contains fourteen of Miller's short stories, linked into a meta-narrative by brief linking sections which seem to follow an encounter and exchange between two men ('I follow him out of the bar with no idea what kind of tale I'm stepping into'). Some of the stories arise more or less directly from what the two are doing or saying, while others make more sense in hindsight. The nature of the exchange itself, though, only slowly becomes clear and I don't want to spoil it. The stories themselves are vibrant and wide-ranging. While they almost always have an element of fantasy either in the detail or, I think, in being set in slightly alternate universes, this often isn't the main point. For example, in the first, Allosaurus Burgers, the eponymous dinosaur turns up in a remote US town, catalysing a range of reactions from religious concern to conspiracy theories, but the story follows a boy and explores his relationship with his mother, sister and absent father. There's no justification for the Allosaurus itself but its presence seems to say something about what is erased, absent or forbidden to be spoken about in Matt's life. The second story, 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides, perhaps turns more strongly on its fantasy premise - no, you'll have to read it to find what it is - as well as introducing one of the main themes of the collection, the lives of gay men and boys in society. It's allusively written, those 57 reasons being given as a numbered list, which gradually develops into a narrative, exploring both the narrator's longings and failings (he lets down a friend badly) and the way he is treated. It also touches on another theme of the collection, alternatives and roads not taken - several stories here take actual historical episodes and add different features to them: supernatural disturbances, different outcomes. The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History, for example, describes the Stonewall raid from numerous perspectives ('June 1969: The wet Manhattan air was like sick breath coming out of our collective throat') but steers the story into something strange, different, a kind of actualisation, I think, of collective rage and resistance to create a phenomenon that baffles everyone. That theme is recapitulated in Angel, Monster, Man, a story told in three parts - and of course echoing the title of the collection - where again, desire, rage and frustration seem to enable the physical manifestation of something that then takes a life if its own as the New York gay community of the 1970s and 80s is struck by the virus. Death and loss feature here often. In Conspicuous Plumage a young man is absent, not spoken of due to the way that he died. It takes a voyage of rediscovery and reimagining to bring him back to mind. The loss and regret are sometimes more, sometimes less, fantastical - more, for example, in Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart which riffs on the events off the film King Kong, bringing New York together in regret and repugnance at a shattering loss: a token perhaps of how we can be, and a story with a promise of something better arising. And the loss isn't always due to a death. In Shucked, it's much more subtle than that - a chance encounter by two American tourists in a bar with an older man ('One of the burdens of being with a boy as beautiful as Teen') leads to... doubts... about the reality of their own relationship and about identity. In The Beasts We Want To Be, a really creepy little story set in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution where strange conditioning techniques to engineer human souls vie with eerie religious artefacts, it's all about the strange sense of unreality even as survivors find consoling relationships amongst the bloodshed. In Calved, a tender story turning on a father's relationship with his son in a nearly post-apocalyptic world, we see the catastrophe coming - a catastrophe stoked by misunderstanding and an inability, or refusal, to be emotionally honest - but can't do anything about it. Relationships - whether between father and son, mother and daughter, lovers, or strangers - are often exquisitely twisted in this collection, not always completely messed up but ramified, vibrating even when seeking to unknot themselves. A sober churchgoing woman seeks out forbidden drugs to open the doors of perception, understand what her son is and hold out a hand to him. Absence undoes those relationships: 'while he was away, Hugh became someone else' or creates spaces in which they can be rebuilt or seen differently. And always, there is that framing story, providing some insights about where all this is going - though tantalisingly incomplete ones. I simply loved this collection. While dark at times, it's never completely bleak, presenting moments of hope and, as I have said, resistance and weaving a seductive web around the reader.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heron

    Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller was the first work of his that I’ve read, but I have a suspicion it won’t be my last. Short story anthologies can be hit or miss, but for me, this one was a solid hit; full of weird, dark, queer stories that incorporate elements of several genres, I found a lot to admire within the pages. Most of these stories center the experiences of gay boys and men, and there is more heartbreak and howling rage than hope to be found within them. Among my favourites were “An Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller was the first work of his that I’ve read, but I have a suspicion it won’t be my last. Short story anthologies can be hit or miss, but for me, this one was a solid hit; full of weird, dark, queer stories that incorporate elements of several genres, I found a lot to admire within the pages. Most of these stories center the experiences of gay boys and men, and there is more heartbreak and howling rage than hope to be found within them. Among my favourites were “Angel, Monster, Man”, a story about a group of queer artists who create a fictional persona that takes on a life of its own, “We Are the Cloud”, a Black Mirror-esque take on a future where people sell their brains for data processing capability, and “Ghosts of Home”, a story about a woman employed by a bank to keep the spirits of foreclosed and other homes content. Some stories didn’t work as well for me, which is to be expected out of any anthology, and some were a little heavy-handed on their themes or overarching messages. Some also reference the author’s other work, so you may get a bit more value out of those than I did if you’ve read it. What I did love though was the notes at the end of the collection where the author talks a bit more about each story from a craft/meta perspective; I wish more books did or had something like this, because I found it fascinating. Overall I would recommend checking Boys, Beasts & Men out if you’re up for a heavy, messy, visceral collection of queer short fiction; fans of darker fantasy and horror would get the most out of this. Just be sure to mind the content warnings. Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for an advance reader copy. All opinions are my own.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chad Cunningham

    I received an arc of this from NetGalley in exchange for a review. it's review time! I have indifferent luck when it comes to short story collections. When they hit I am surprised. When they don't, I shrug and move on. This collection hit and hit hard. The stories in Boys, Beasts & Men are a swirl of queerness, magic, horror, science fiction, and good old fashioned gut-punching storytelling. Each story examines an idea in exquisite originality. Whether it's the effect of King Kong on the people o I received an arc of this from NetGalley in exchange for a review. it's review time! I have indifferent luck when it comes to short story collections. When they hit I am surprised. When they don't, I shrug and move on. This collection hit and hit hard. The stories in Boys, Beasts & Men are a swirl of queerness, magic, horror, science fiction, and good old fashioned gut-punching storytelling. Each story examines an idea in exquisite originality. Whether it's the effect of King Kong on the people of New York, or the unexpected power of learning how a murder actually happened, or the daily life of furniture, these stories all make an impression and lead to thought. (Or more emotional reactions. There's a story about a father, a son, and a t-shirt that absolutely devastated me. Like...devastated.) I loved this book. I will be thinking about it for a long while.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Hsinju Chen wrote, "If light horror speculative fiction is your jam, Boys, Beasts & Men should be on your TBR." Umm. It's not, and hence this one goes to the caves under Mt. TBR. Which is to say, if I see a library copy, I might pick it up..... Hsinju Chen wrote, "If light horror speculative fiction is your jam, Boys, Beasts & Men should be on your TBR." Umm. It's not, and hence this one goes to the caves under Mt. TBR. Which is to say, if I see a library copy, I might pick it up.....

  18. 4 out of 5

    BookChampions

    All the stars. Review is forthcoming.

  19. 5 out of 5

    roma

    oh this was brilliant

  20. 4 out of 5

    Neil Czeszejko

    'Boys, Beasts & Men' is a phenomenal short story collection that brings to mind a pack of wolves, with each story pulsing to its own heartbeat, straining at the leash that affixes it to the whole with bestial vigor.  The stories are dark, enigmatic, eerie and fantastical, all written with surprising weightlessness. As a result, they invoke the feeling of trying to breathe in subzero temperatures, when puffs of gelled heat are replaced by a chill, one which steals more than just body heat. In much 'Boys, Beasts & Men' is a phenomenal short story collection that brings to mind a pack of wolves, with each story pulsing to its own heartbeat, straining at the leash that affixes it to the whole with bestial vigor.  The stories are dark, enigmatic, eerie and fantastical, all written with surprising weightlessness. As a result, they invoke the feeling of trying to breathe in subzero temperatures, when puffs of gelled heat are replaced by a chill, one which steals more than just body heat. In much the same way, Miller's prose breaches and traces that most inner part, sneaking its way past the body's defenses, pawing at the senses. Every story is wildly imaginative, each one twists and bends its form to stun and titillate that much more. And aside from the wonderfully eclectic narratives, which burst and shatter but never disenchant, it's emotion that dominates every page. Death, grief, rage, lust, longing, loss and desire breed various beasts and terrors, which are, in turn, nurtured by the intensity of human passion. Likewise, the monsters' physicality is used to illustrate the depravity lurking within the human psyche. Miller makes it a point to disengage the body from the soul, repeatedly referencing "the bodies we wear", the fates dictated by our lack of choice when it comes to the fit and color we're assigned upon conception. This fracture is tangible in each one of his stories, and it blends eroticism with ghoulishness, sensuality with violence. Talk of capitalism and AIDS is founded on rage, but it's the intensity of the emotion that allows sensations and actions to bleed into each other, arousing those in the throes of savagery. The idea of the body is further pushed to envelop Eastern elements, such as spirits incorporating the essence of a house. Through them, Miller shows the rupture between the spiritual and the material in the human mind, an innate sense of connection gone feral. What enhances the collection's unique appeal is the stories' duality, the way they instill morals to combat insanity. Miller is the master of his worlds and his characters the gods of their domains, pivoting and remolding reality in a state of euphoric dread. That's why entering the space they occupy is a challenge, a thrill, a plunge into an untethered imagination. Not a gradual descent, but a drop toward a new, form-defying center of gravity.  'Boys, Beasts & Men' is the fruit of substantial creative autonomy, a glorious nightmare wrapped around a daydream. Its images are vibrant, its thoughts throb on the page, its characters reshape the labyrinth of the mind, fears and desires feed on the flesh they manifest. Whatever imprint the stories choose to leave behind, whether it be yearning, outrage, grief or unfulfilled carnality, each one is imbued with sorrow, each one breaks you with a craving for more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ariel (ariel_reads)

    This is an excellent collection of short stories. Having read Blackfish City, I enjoyed returning back to the wonderful literary voice that Sam J. Miller inhabits with science fiction with a healthy dosing of existential crises. My favorite stories include a dinosaur residing in rural US, an examination of spirits who inhabit homes and the unhoused, a drug-induced lens by which a mother tries to understand her son, and a self-aware couch who tells the stories of all the people it has encountered This is an excellent collection of short stories. Having read Blackfish City, I enjoyed returning back to the wonderful literary voice that Sam J. Miller inhabits with science fiction with a healthy dosing of existential crises. My favorite stories include a dinosaur residing in rural US, an examination of spirits who inhabit homes and the unhoused, a drug-induced lens by which a mother tries to understand her son, and a self-aware couch who tells the stories of all the people it has encountered. Another element I really appreciated was the interludes between each story that, by the end of the book, helps the reader see the entire collection in further clarity. the author's notes at the end that quickly summarize the thoughts behind each story provided an even more profound lens for me to read the stories. A huge thank you to Tachyon Publications for inviting me to review this book. I'm looking forward to more books by this author!

  22. 4 out of 5

    ReadBecca

    I pretty much enjoyed this collection start to finish. It does what good collections do, thematically building an arc that layers as we go. We start with a fairly simple story, Allosaurus Burgers, which really grew on me as I got farther away from it. The story just brilliantly encapsulates a moment in time, the moment of shift when a child realizes their parent is a fallible human. At the other side of the lens, a couple later stories feature parents as they come to realize they are the monster I pretty much enjoyed this collection start to finish. It does what good collections do, thematically building an arc that layers as we go. We start with a fairly simple story, Allosaurus Burgers, which really grew on me as I got farther away from it. The story just brilliantly encapsulates a moment in time, the moment of shift when a child realizes their parent is a fallible human. At the other side of the lens, a couple later stories feature parents as they come to realize they are the monster in their child's life. T here is a lot of play with perspective, really tweaking how we look at mundane situations in a different way, some stories use innovative format like oral history, others apply some novelty like making very literal interpretation of things. Almost every story is tinged with sadness in some way, they're dirty, beautiful, and sad. We're also heavily engaged in the topics of bullying and bodily control from a markedly gay focus using a variety of speculative elements to shift our perception; these are imminent and timely in a world increasingly targeting not just LGBTQIA+ individuals and topics, but also women in these areas. The content is heavy, featuring serious depictions of bullying, homophobia, aids epidemic, physical & emotional abuse. I saw a lot of similarities to the work of Cory Doctorow, talking about problems of today and the near future in a critical way that is all about average people dealing with their situation.  These are somewhat broken, downtrodden people just trying to solve a problem that impacts their daily life. Many of the same themes of class disparity & systems of oppression are prominent, but where Doctorow focuses the technology, Miller focuses the interpersonal - overcoming bullies, burning bridges in relationships, community, just plain fighting back - sometimes it's not the most heroic choices that are made. Usually there are at least a few in a collection that you don't like, but here there were mostly absolute hits and only a couple that I simply didn't connect with as overly memorable, but no fails for me. I found this a new favorite, I'll definitely intend on getting to Miller's novels soon on the strength of this collection.

  23. 5 out of 5

    On the Same Page

    ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: homophobia (there's definitely more but I can't remember the rest 🙈) So, what I've learned from reading this, is that I tend to enjoy short story collections/anthologies if: * I'm a huge fan of the author already * The stories are overall really excellent and distinct I think this collection is good, but I didn't fully love it for various reasons. Most of the stories ended up blending together in my head in a way ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: homophobia (there's definitely more but I can't remember the rest 🙈) So, what I've learned from reading this, is that I tend to enjoy short story collections/anthologies if: * I'm a huge fan of the author already * The stories are overall really excellent and distinct I think this collection is good, but I didn't fully love it for various reasons. Most of the stories ended up blending together in my head in a way that makes it really hard to remember any of them. The author also used a narrative structure where there was an overarching short story and we would get a short snippet of it in between the other stories. I kept losing the thread of that one, though. There are definitely some interesting ideas here, but most of the stories didn't stick the landing for me. That said, if you're interested in a collection that centers queer men/boys, I think you might enjoy this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    I wrote a review of Miller's book of stories that was published at Ancillary Review of Books https://ancillaryreviewofbooks.org/20... I wrote a review of Miller's book of stories that was published at Ancillary Review of Books https://ancillaryreviewofbooks.org/20...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather - Just Geeking By

    Originally posted on Just Geeking by. Content warnings: (view spoiler)[Multiple stories in this anthology include themes of homophobia and heterosexism. As a result some stories include violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Two separate stories talk directly about the 1969 Stonewall riots and the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis. There are elements of violence and horror in a few other stories as well. Other themes present in this book include alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, climate change, animal abuse, Originally posted on Just Geeking by. Content warnings: (view spoiler)[Multiple stories in this anthology include themes of homophobia and heterosexism. As a result some stories include violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Two separate stories talk directly about the 1969 Stonewall riots and the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis. There are elements of violence and horror in a few other stories as well. Other themes present in this book include alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, climate change, animal abuse, animal death, poverty and homelessness. (hide spoiler)] I was unfamiliar with Sam J. Miller’s work when I first delved into Boys, Beasts & Men, and that was ok with me. I like reading anthologies to get to know new authors, and Boys, Beasts & Men is a beautiful showcase of Miller’s work over the years. In the acknowledgments at the end he gives insights into what inspired each story, and he also explains how many of them link to his other works. A character from one short story links to a novel, or pops up in another one. As a reader who loves interconnectivity between stories this made them even more special. He also did something I’ve never seen in an anthology; he tells a story between the stories. A random hook-up between two men turns into something more, told between one-page interludes between the short-stories. It’s magical and mesmerising. To be honest, the entire anthology is mesmerising. Miller’s writing is witty and hard-hitting, drawing out stories from angles that most people don’t tend to see. Many of these are often about queer identity, but many are recognisable to people of any identity, community or circumstance. These are the people who fall through the cracks, who aren’t seen by society. Even in the stories with horror and supernatural elements as someone with mental health conditions I felt seen by Miller. His writing is full of lush descriptions and vivid emotions, yet also has a way of stripping things down to the bare bones. In his acknowledgments he discusses how two of his stories came about from trying to understand people on the other side, the people who hate and do not understand the queer community. The result of this are two stunningly emotive stories (“Calved” and “When your Child Strays from God”) about parents realising that their child had not only grown up, but had, as Miller puts it become “something they can’t understand or find terrifying”. The concepts and themes of boys becoming men, and men being/becoming beasts or monsters run throughout all of Miller’s stories, and it was interesting to see how he interpreted these themes from his own perspective, as well as an outside perspective. There’s even a story from the perspective of a monster becoming aware that it might be a monster. A story that really stuck out to me was “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart” which considers the idea that the events of King Kong were real. What would happen in a world where a giant ape existed and lost its life because humans acted monstrously? Miller’s story is hauntingly beautiful and will stick with you after you’ve read it. It won’t be the only one, and I could go on and on. Instead, I’m just going to mention one last story; “The Heat of Us”. A retelling of the 1969 Stonewall riots, this short story is told from multiple perspectives as a former reporter puts together an article to tell the “real story” of what happened. In this retelling three people at the riot band together and something extraordinary happens. It is a powerful story, giving voice to a historical moment in LGBT history. Boys, Beasts & Men is an evocative collection of stories that showcases the scope of Miller’s talent as a writer. In one story he expertly explores that moment as a child when you realise a parent isn’t perfect, perfectly manifesting real life with the existence of dinosaurs. Elsewhere, he tackles the hubris of 21st century America in a dystopian story about a parent trying to reconnect with their teenage son. A supernatural story about house spirits takes on capitalism and homelessness. Every story has multiple layers, and at the heart of them is the story of a real person. Pick Boys, Beasts and Men up for the incredible writing, and stay with it how it makes you feel. For more of my reviews please visit my blog!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Madison Corey

    Good lord, reading this book felt like the wildest thing I've done in a long time. Let me start by saying I haven't the slightest clue what the hell happened in this book. My thoughts will likely be all over the place in this review because so much happened and I feel so much that my head hurts and I can't think straight. I don't mean that in a bad way, this is just a heavy read. A pleasantly heavy, intoxicating read. A thought that occurred to me about halfway through finishing this book was, ' Good lord, reading this book felt like the wildest thing I've done in a long time. Let me start by saying I haven't the slightest clue what the hell happened in this book. My thoughts will likely be all over the place in this review because so much happened and I feel so much that my head hurts and I can't think straight. I don't mean that in a bad way, this is just a heavy read. A pleasantly heavy, intoxicating read. A thought that occurred to me about halfway through finishing this book was, 'It's not often you see male main characters' and I immediately realized that is not at all true. Though it's not often you see male main characters like this. The author has such a delicate portrayal of each character, and not in a vulnerable, embracing femininity way, but raw and passionate. I know personally I've grown up assuming that most men in my life don't harbor the ability to critically think or analyze emotion the way that women do. That they simply exist experiencing life as exactly what happens in front of their face and nothing else. While this book didn't entirely rid me of such assumptions, that mindset has definitely been stretched and bent. The narrator was not always male, but the main character mostly was. This only enhanced that intense feeling of creativity, vulnerability, and passion. Now despite what you may be thinking, I am not a misandrist. I only think that the way Miller chose to portray and illustrate men is such a refreshing take, more specifically in literature. Most books I read portray men not as dumb or cold, but shallow. And I mean this in a large, confident, strong man who is stricken with possessiveness, but wait, don't forget the soft spot he harbors for his family or the women he loves. I think this mainly comes from Miller's tendency to incorporate gay ships in every story. Miller uses this novel as a way to bring men to life independent from women in their actions, dreams, and emotions. Boys, Beasts & Men is like glimpsing inside the most creative, feral, intelligent man you believe could have ever existed. I really admire the ambition behind the story's premise; to me, it felt like Miller attempted to wrestle societal expectations of what it meant to be a man. Each short story seemed to both shatter and caress the stereotypes of being a man in today's society by addressing homosexuality, love and passion, but also violent patterns. Honestly, the farther I got into this book the more impressed I was by all the short stories. The stories became more compelling towards the end and I wish they could be more then just a few pages. If Miller ever decided to write full novels on some of these- I'd never recover. And can we talk about Miller's writing?! I am enchanted by his work! I feel like my list of male favorite authors is just growing, seriously, there's something so magical about the characters he creates. The only thing I really didn't enjoy about this collection of short stories was the beginning; I was just so confused. I think it definitely takes a while to identify what recurring theme Miller is trying to communicate. Once you do that, its like taking some hard drugs, intoxicating and addicting. Keep in mind, Boys, Beasts & Men is in no way a love-story, there is something seriously twisted about the each short story. All in all, if you wanna read some black mirror twisted storylines jam-packed with gay love and ferocious male characters- this is the story for you. I will never stop recommending this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Corvus

    I was actually introduced to Sam J. Miller via an excellent short story of his that I read in an anthology long ago. Thus, I was excited to learn that his new short story collection, "Boys, Beasts, & Men," was due out this year. Like most collections of stories, I found this to be a bit of a mixed bag. This makes it hard to rate. Overall, though, there are some great stories in here. As usual, Miller exhibits a ton of creativity. There are elements of horror and fantasy woven throughout the book I was actually introduced to Sam J. Miller via an excellent short story of his that I read in an anthology long ago. Thus, I was excited to learn that his new short story collection, "Boys, Beasts, & Men," was due out this year. Like most collections of stories, I found this to be a bit of a mixed bag. This makes it hard to rate. Overall, though, there are some great stories in here. As usual, Miller exhibits a ton of creativity. There are elements of horror and fantasy woven throughout the book in different ways. There are multiple stories where he takes real and major historical events (often from gay history such as the stonewall uprising and the HIV/AIDS plague) and adds supernatural elements to them. There are multiple stories where life is given to nonliving, inanimate objects in bizarre ways. As I hoped, there was regular exploration of gay mens lives and psyches in a variety of ways from the throes of love to the despair of self hatred and fear. There is a story set in the King Kong universe, told from a different perspective than I have ever seen. There is a soviet era story I enjoyed and wondered, as a USAmerican, what Russian readers would think of it. I thought "Calved" was probably the best story, though I have mixed feelings about the ending. "Angel Monster Man," is a very creative way of exploring gay culture, art, and propaganda with a horror element I have never seen before. Between each story is a snippet of a larger story tying things together. This was my first experience with this narrative tool. This spooky gay cruising journey was an interesting connecting thread with unexpected turns. I also loved the graphic design of this book. The fantastic illustrations that move beyond the front cover and throughout the pages really added to my reading experience. The end of the book tells us more about how old some of the stories are and even includes notes from Miller on each story, why and how he came up with the ideas, and so on. He also confirmed my nagging suspicion that some of the characters were familiar to me- there were a couple of Easter Egg cameos with characters from Blackfish City and The Blade Between. The places that I think Miller could have done better were the way he wrote Black characters and his use of the r-slur. He needs to work on the whole show-don't-tell thing regarding Black characters. Any time we met one, it was as if his writing skill went downhill, relying on telling you someone was Black for you to know, but still never making me believe it. I did not have this experience with other characters of his. I also object to his use of the r-slur in multiple stories. I understand that sometimes, ugly words are written to show someone's character or what a disabled character has gone through. But, I found the prevalence of it to be unnecessary and felt that there were other ways he could have gone about it. I did enjoy this collection overall. Even when I hit a spot in Miller's writing where I didn't exactly love the story, there was always a depth of creative risk-taking that makes me happy that he went for it. It's this sort of thing that brings new and visionary fiction into being. This was also posted to my blog.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sasan

    Anthologies can be hard to write, but I'll still consider Boys, Beasts and Men to be a solid one overall. I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you to Tachyon Publications and the author for the opportunity. I have my own blog now, so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :) Release date: 14th of June 2022. ─────────────────── An anthology is somewhat of a required reading when it comes to the annual fantasy bingo challenge hosted by r/fantas Anthologies can be hard to write, but I'll still consider Boys, Beasts and Men to be a solid one overall. I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you to Tachyon Publications and the author for the opportunity. I have my own blog now, so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :) Release date: 14th of June 2022. ─────────────────── An anthology is somewhat of a required reading when it comes to the annual fantasy bingo challenge hosted by r/fantasy on Reddit. Which in turn, made me incredibly excited when I actually received one as a review copy and don't have to search for long. This also happens to be my first Sam J. Miller book and as always, an anthology is a pretty good place to start with a new author. Specifically because, I can see a bigger scope of their imagination and potentially different types of writing styles. For Boys, Beasts and Men, the one word I'll use to describe it as a collection is "creativity". Over the course of these 14 short stories, I got the chance to read them and one extra story that was written in smaller tidbits before the start of each of the 14. While those short stories varied in length, the 15th story was only barely a paragraph long every single time. And that ended up being an insanely clever way to tell it. If I combined the 15th story sentences or paragraphs, I don't believe it would have been longer than a couple of pages. But, I also don't think that it would have worked out as a combination like that either. The author created an interesting mix with mystery and suspense in separating them, and it would have surely been lost if it was in one go. Going through the anthology, I got the chance to see how he melds fantasy or science fiction with realism, how strange he might want something to go and how real life issues could be added to them as well. To the extent that, not one of them ever stepped down from the creativity pedestal throughout the reading. Which was an honestly incredible feat. That being said, when it comes to anthologies, it's also difficult to make sure that all of them would be entertaining in the same extent. And that ended up happening to me while I was reading Boys, Beasts and Men. There were three stories overall, that I enjoyed more than the others: Allosaurus Burgers, 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides (this was my favourite) and Conspicuous Plumage. For the rest of them, they sort of melded together for me after a while and I didn't think about them for very long after that first reading experience. I had this happen after reading quite a few of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels last year as well (13 in total, which should probably tell me something about my own reading habits... lol). Which in turn, doesn't mean that I consider the other 11 stories in Boys, Beasts and Men any lesser, or anything of the sort, they just didn't grip me as much. Regardless, I still enjoyed myself in the end and that's all I ask for in a book or a piece of entertainment. I do also know, moving forward, that Sam J. Miller has a somewhat different writing style than what I'm used to. And I believe that I may end up picking one of their other books just to see what else they can come up with now that I read Boys, Beasts and Men. Solid anthology overall, and a thank you once again for the opportunity to have it be the first book I read in 2022's fantasy bingo challenge!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Georgie

    Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J Miller will be published by Tachyon Publications on 14 June 2022. I received an early copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Boys, Beasts & Men is a short-story collection, which are always difficult for me to review, because part of me wants to just review the stories individually, but I also know that, as a collection, they're part of a whole, and care was taken to determine what stories would go in, and in what order. This collection was well-chos Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J Miller will be published by Tachyon Publications on 14 June 2022. I received an early copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Boys, Beasts & Men is a short-story collection, which are always difficult for me to review, because part of me wants to just review the stories individually, but I also know that, as a collection, they're part of a whole, and care was taken to determine what stories would go in, and in what order. This collection was well-chosen, and the title is a perfect summation of what the stories are about. There's a wonderful triple punch in Boys, Beasts & Men- "Calved," followed by "When Your Child Strays from God," and finally "Things With Beards." The first two stories work well together, both stories of parents learning more about their children and dealing with issues of their own. "Calved" was devastating, both the world it's set in and Thede's father trying to connect with Thede and the consequences of that. "When Your Child Strays from God" was a more hopeful story of parental connection, and had some absolute stunners of sentences in it. Miller says he wrote it right after "Calved," and the two of them are a fascinating conversation (also- I love that there's a section at the end where Miller talks about each of his stories). "Things With Beards" doesn't really have much connection with the first two stories, but it follows them, and the three of them are my favorite in the collection, so. It's a continuance of John Carpenter's The Thing The Movie 1982, and it's about fighting for police reform, and it's about passing, and more- it's a lot of stuff I really like, and I was delighted and intrigued. I also really enjoyed "Angel, Monster, Man," because I love stories about how symbols mean different things to different people, and myths becoming real, and all that jazz. The collection has a framing device throughout, and the transition from the second to last framing section to the last story to the final framing section was excellent. My biggest problem with this book is that the starting story, "Allosaurus Burgers," is the one I found the weakest. I read the first three stories, and an hour later couldn't remember anything about "Allosaurus Burgers," which was pretty disappointing, considering it had a dinosaur in it and also was the start of the collection. It definitely didn't ruin the book, but it did color my reading of the rest of it. Over all, it's a strong collection of stories with themes I'm really into, dark and interesting, and I'm interested in checking out Miller's other works.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aamna - The Ink Slinger

    "Because I am an idiot, who still hasn’t learned how stories and movies mislead us, showing us how things ought to end up, which is never how they do; and because stories are oracles whose prophecies we can’t unravel until it is too late." Link to my blog- https://aamnarehman.wixsite.com/bookw... This was my first time reading a work of Sam j Miller and an anthology as well, so obviously I'm not the most experience person to be giving a critical review about this but I'll try my best. The part tha "Because I am an idiot, who still hasn’t learned how stories and movies mislead us, showing us how things ought to end up, which is never how they do; and because stories are oracles whose prophecies we can’t unravel until it is too late." Link to my blog- https://aamnarehman.wixsite.com/bookw... This was my first time reading a work of Sam j Miller and an anthology as well, so obviously I'm not the most experience person to be giving a critical review about this but I'll try my best. The part that really pull me in first thing was the concept of having these short stories that are s little fantastical, maybe magical realism or even sci-fi, because they are usually known for being pretty long books. I am mainly a speculative fiction reader, so it seemed like something familiar and a challenge at the same time. The way it leaves you feeling after you finish it is completely on edge and dissatisfied- a little raw at the edges and heaviness in your heart. I think the dissatisfied feeling, like a movie ending too soon, is intentional on part of the author. The writing style is tense and evocative and if I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be "grief" even though interestingly that's not what it's centered around. Even though they seemed random, the short stories are all connected by another overarching story about two characters with strange abilities that run into each other in a bar. The little hints and clues make you want to somehow connect the dots but never seem to make a sensible picture when you do. It's frustrating but wholesome. It eases you into the bizarre slowly and gradually. We start with an insight into kid's mind and dinosaurs, and and then move up onto darker themes and stories. It's not extremely violent, but I recommend going through the Trigger Warnings thoroughly. It is a collection of all the stories and perspectives of the downtrodden peole, communities that have had their voices silenced just because they're different and some people thought that they don't deserve the same things that the rest of us do. To me personally, this book was an evocative learning experience and insight into a myriad of different experiences and lives, an opportunity to empathize and educate. But otherwise I also really resonate with the way the author chose to tell these stories. He wrote them with so much emotion, and so many emotions- hurt, grief, love, desperation- packed into it. It's an honest, stripped down narrative that will make your heart clench.

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