Though I wasn't familiar with author Keith Ferrario, the blurb on this one was simply too good to pass up for a horror fan who counts John Carpenter's seminal The Thing among the best 20 films he's ever seen. A pilot leads a small team to investigate the sudden loss of communications with a remote Antarctic research station, only to end up fighting for their lives against a some kind of "cunning, thinking monster".
Well, that was literally only half the story. At about the 50% mark, Ferrario wraps up the whole Antarctic research station part of his novel, and suddenly shifts the action forward twelve years and onto the North American continent. Actually, "action" may have been a poor choice of words there, because like the first half of Monster, Ferrario has to then develop a whole new cast of characters, meaning this slows to a no-longer appropriate glacial pace. It's a daring move, and though the two stories do eventually intertwine and there is a pay off, there's way too much fat on this one and not enough meat for me to forgive the abandoning of the novel that is sold in the blurb. In short, having to go through two long build-up, character-setting phases was one too many for me.
Without giving anything away, the titular monster is interesting enough, though not as horrifying as that very cool cover shown above would imply. The characters never quite gelled for me either - especially as those who turn out to be more than they initially appear almost scream as much from the moment they enter the story. Which basically translated to zero surprises for me when the eventual third act twists (because there are two of those, remember) take place.
From his website, it would appear this is Ferrario's fourth published work, but the first in many years. I'm not sure if he took a huge break from writing or if this is the result of a decade plus of work. I hope the former. There are some enjoyable aspects to Monster, particularly in the novel's first half, but overall this was a slightly disappointing read that simply tried to do too much.
2.5 Enveloping Puddles of Ooze for Monster.
The preceding is based on a free eARC provided by Samhain Publishing through Netgalley.