I am on a bit of a self publishing kick for no particular reason. This choice has led me to read some really great unknown gems, and some books that have not made it into posts as they are not worth mentioning. Today I want to talk to you about a new self published book on the great side that you have likely never heard of: Monsters of Elsewhere by Matthew Waldram.
Monsters of Elsewhere is a standalone book about a pair of humans that get pulled into a parallel world to our own in a sort of Chronicles of Narnia/The Magicians fashion. But that is essentially where the comparison ends. The plot follows both of the humans as they try to make their way back to their own world, and a monster as he tries to sort out the problems in Elsewhere. The plot is fairly standard, but is told in a method I found quite refreshing. Matthew opted for more of a straightforward, and less whimsical, approach when describing his fascinating world. Every character feels relatable and human (even the monsters). The magical world, in all its power and beauty, still has the same day-to-day bustle as our own and its inhabitants still have similar problems to us (like a young man having trouble asking out a pretty girl). It creates these incredible senses of both unknown wonder and intense familiarity that I really enjoyed. The book features a race of blue monsters called the Gaetuli that i felt was a tribute to the classic monster under the bed. Matthew then goes on to humanize them in profound and wonderful ways as we learn more about the furry blue people and the journey of one in particular.
Matthew’s writing style has a fun unique tone that I thought was excellent. He has both elements of the satirical hilarity of Terry Pratchett and the biting wit of Scott Lynch that give his writing its own great voice. He is excellent both at prose and at dialogue, and many of the conversations in the book reminded me of how I would talk with my close friends. The character development is great and I felt that the characters all changed in their own way as they dealt with their own personal problems and journey. In addition, the world building was just phenomenal. As mentioned before, Matthew did a wonderful job blending the real and unreal to create a world that I could readily picture but that was also filled with interesting magic, animals, and sights to behold. While I really enjoyed the book in its standalone form, I would love to revisit the world and continue learning more about it.
On the other hand, one of my major complaints with this book was the pacing. The speed at certain parts of the book felt like a crawl, and at others a mad dash. I felt the book would have benefited from a slightly smoother pace and possibly from a little less time with the characters when they are young. I would have enjoyed diving into the adult lives of the characters first, as the adult sections of the book are much more endearing that the children ones. In addition, I feel that some of the potential of the book is not fulfilled as Matthew did not fully explain or explore a few of the cooler things in the book. A couple great opportunities for action and world building are missed that could have topped off the otherwise stellar book.
However, regardless of my minor complaints, Matthew does a great job creating a new world with a fast paced and smile inducing plot. His writing style defies comparison and does an impressive job painting the monsters of another world as startlingly human. If you are looking for something new that forges its own path, I recommend Monsters of Elsewhere.