Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Book cover for We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk with a man in shadows and a straight jacket

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We Are Monsters is a character-driven story, but I brought my own plot-driven expectations to my reading before I eventually adjusted. I think a lot of the backstory and character development could have been streamlined and braided with more scenic action throughout the first 2/3rds of the book. What emerges from these details are three complex characters who must confront their past when their world is turned upside down. I found Dr. Eli Alpert, Chief Medical Director of the Sugar Hill mental asylum, and Dr. Alex Drexler, his protégé, to be unlikeable at first, which made their character arcs rough going. Angela (was her last name provided?) is a social worker at Sugar Hill and much more engaging and likable, in my opinion. Eventually, the three characters’ traumatic pasts and Dr. Drexler’s experimentations on patients with a cutting-edge new compound he has developed collide in a reality-ripping event that threatens not only the three of them, but everyone else in the asylum, and perhaps the world.

What other reviewers are calling a tone shift in the last third of the novel does, in retrospect, seem to be foreshadowed much earlier in the novel. It took me several pages to adjust to the direction Kirk takes later in the novel, but I was rewarded with an unexpectedly humane, emotional, and satisfying ending. Despite its challenges, We Are Monsters left me with a lot to enjoy and think about.

Much appreciation to Flame Tree Publishing for making the book available early to purchase and read, and Night Worms for the opportunity.

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