1 out of 4 stars
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In The Different Kinds of Monsters, author Seth Chambers wonders if there can be any redemption for monsters. For the characters Chambers has created, there can be no redemption.
Throughout the book, we follow Dylan Armitage as he is being haunted by a particular dinosaur. Chambers makes parallels between monsters like dinosaurs, sexual predators, abusive parents, abusive spouses, and manipulative people. Though these parallels are clear and insightful, the characters are gross.
It is possible to follow a protagonist that is despicable, but Chambers does not give readers anything endearing about Dylan. In the beginning, you pity him. His father was abusive and his mother hated him, and he was mistreated in many other ways throughout the story. Later, he himself does some heinous things, and the pity I held for him was not enough to forgive him. I ended the book hating each character.
In this book, almost every chapter is no longer than three pages. The story is choppy, and the exposition does not allow the reader to get to know the characters outside of abusive, monstrous situations. The exposition is much heavier than character development as we follow Dylan from childhood to present as well as cutting to the dinosaur's life during the Late Jurassic Period. The novel had the opportunity to be action packed; it built up a confrontation with the dinosaur that was disappointingly anti-climactic.
The underlying narrative of the story is abuse. The connections between the dinosaur, Dylan's father, Dylan, and Dylan's daughter are built out of blood and abuse. Because the characters are so despicable, I rarely found myself sympathizing with their plight. The rape scenes were needlessly graphic as was a particular abusive relationship later in the story. Each character did something horrific, and though they would be self-depricating and recognize how awful their behavior was, there was no dynamic change. Static characters with evil actions who know they're evil and show no willingness to change make for terrible protagonists. I want to at least like or relate to a character I'm spending 274 pages getting to know.
The premise of connecting a literal monster to abusers is solid. In order to succeed in telling that story, though, at least one character has to be likeable, but if not, the reader will not be compelled to finish the story. I had to take breaks in reading because of how disgusted I felt.
The Different Kinds of Monsters had a promising start. I liked the author's premise and the early suspense of wondering what the dinosaur was going to do next. That suspense withered when it became clear that no action was going to happen in the present; the author was going to dissect the past. The story took a turn in graphic details, in forgetting to develop Dylan throughout the exposition of his life, and in lack of action to further the plot. It was longer than necessary; the book built up an interaction between the Armitage family and the dinosaur that disappointed the built-in hype.
Because of graphic abuse, lack of character development, and lack of follow-through in action, I give this book 1 out of 4 stars. The book would have promise if the author had cut needless descriptors of rape scenes and given more time to developing Dylan as a rounded-out character rather than backtracking to major bullet points in his life.
The Different Kinds Of Monsters
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