Monsters in the Garden: An Anthology of Aotearoa
Edited by Elizabeth Knox & David Larsen
Victoria University Press
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
For someone who has always been diametrically opposed to science fiction, fantasy, and anything remotely masquerading as such, Monsters in the Garden, with its eclectic mix of short stories and excerpts, was an excellent way to dive right in.
I love that there are names I recognised of well-established New Zealand authors who I have read on occasion, the likes of Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera included. Mahy’s Misrule in Diamond from her unpublished manuscript was everything I never knew I needed: fantasy, princes, court jesters, treacherous siblings, and what could have been a hint of romance that unfortunately may never be explored. I long for what is left of Mahy’s unpublished manuscript and the hidden possibilities within.
Maurice Gee, Keri Hulme, the list goes on. You will find previously unpublished authors sharing their wares here as well. I love the feel of these stories. Phillip Mann flips the lid on iconic characters in The Gospel According to Mickey Mouse, where Mickey Mouse turns dictator and Sherlock Holmes is not as we know him. Editors David Larsen and Elizabeth Knox seem to have no particular rhyme or rhythm to their selection. There’s the weird, the wonderful, and the unsettling in between, all vying for your attention. There’s knitted dolls, and worried sheep. The stories all seem miscellaneous, and perhaps this is what science fiction is all about – strange, weird, assorted, and a challenge to the impossible.
Emma Martin’s In the Forest with Ludmila, about two sisters raised by a disturbed mother and grandmother, felt disconcerting in its violence and unsettling.
I wouldn’t say I am now a convert to all things sci-fi but rather, I’m open to a world where speculative fiction not only lives but thrives; all the better with a uniquely Kiwi feel too. Knox accepts this anthology doesn’t represent all genres, writing “It’s an anthology among anthologies and a good place to start.” For the uninitiated like me, it has been just that.