Review: Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
Kim Fu, 180 pgs, Coach House Books,, $21.95

I used to work the night shift at a full service gas station. It was in an empty parking lot, and the fluorescent bulbs in the canopy above the pumps were the only light around. And so on came the June bugs, every night all summer long. The bugs would fly up and slam their armoured almond bodies into the overhead lights repeatedly, until without warning they would tire and fall out of the sky, sometimes right into this reviewer’s hair.

So perhaps I am a little biased, but what I consider the anchor story of this collection, “June Bugs,” absolutely made my skin crawl. Yes, partly because of the house infested with the little bastards, but also because of Fu’s phenomenal knack for capturing the toxic relationship the story centers on. And not just in this story, but every story. Fu has an uncanny talent for capturing the subtleties of interpersonal relationships between lovers, between mothers, between perfect strangers in the dark, between ourselves. And she paints these relationships over some fantastic narrative backdrops that are guaranteed to tickle any imagination.

“After I killed my wife, I had twenty hours before her new body finished printing downstairs.” I knew immediately was going to love this story about a husband and wife who recreationally murder each other. In it, Fu does a great job of offering a deep perspective of the mundane by introducing one minor fantastic element. But she does this just as well in the stories that range into the majorly fantastic, like the sea monster in “Bridezilla.” And all throughout these bleak tales, uninterested in offering much in the way of optimism, Fu employs a comfortable wit that leaves one ready to watch the world end with a wink and a nudge. I’d recommend this book to everyone. (Alex Passey)