The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan does what it says on the tin. It’s a non-fiction book about why they have taken the forms that they have and what fears they might have evolved out from.
I’ve had it on my list for a while and I’m really glad that I finally managed to get around to reading it. I greatly enjoyed this and highly recommend you check it out if you have any interest in fantasy, monsters, or things that go bump in the night.
Each chapter is divided up into different kinds of monsters, for example: gigantic monsters like King Kong, another chapter for created beasts like golems or Frankenstein’s monster, or a chapter on aliens. This felt like a great way to separate the creatures into their own categories and fit very well into the fears that the author argues the monsters grow from.
The chapters aren’t too long and I think that they go into enough depth to be fascinating but don’t end up mining too far into details that could leave a reader bored or out of their depth. For every kind of monster the author shows that there is a unique and captivating history. I don’t want to say much more than that without spoiling any of the details within it but I can wholeheartedly say that in every chapter and almost on every page there was another detail, another facet of history that hooked me in.
However, I did find that there was too much reliance on films as an expression of the fears the author explores in modern culture and a noticeable lack of investigation of literature as an expression of modern fears. This was most obvious when the author was discussing Harry Potter and he pointedly only discussed the film adaptations. I found this very odd that a book examining fears and monsters should ignore modern books that include those fears and monsters.
Regardless, that was a small gripe in what I found to be an excellent read. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in horror, fantasy, monsters, or anything that’s vaguely related to it! If you have ever wondered where dragons came from, what kind of mind came up with a chimera, or how vampires might have come to be then you should definitely read this book!