Reviewing: The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, by Aaron Mahnke

If you love stories about things that go bump in the night, or things that haven’t quite been explained away by reason in the long and often dark past of humanity, Lore is something you will enjoy. I was a long-term fan of the podcast series (which is incredibly soothing but also very creepy) when the book was announced, and there was no question about it. I was going to read this book.

The first in an upcoming series, Monstrous Creatures covers everything inhuman that lurks in the shadows of history and superstition, from the commonly recognisable tales of vampires and werewolves to the mysterious ‘others’ that seem to haunt many a society’s history and beliefs. Whenever humanity has found somewhere new to settle down, and has been frightened by the unfamiliar darkness around them, we have filled it with monsters to explain away our suffering and perhaps most importantly to avoid believing we are alone in the dark. Huldufolk living in formations of rocks, the airborne devil of the New Jersey Pines, ghosts and possessions – this is a book that takes us into the stories that have terrified and captivated us for millennia and have converted even the most steadfastly sceptic people into terrified believers.

If you’re worried about this being a non-fiction book, don’t be. Mahnke has a wonderful talent for storytelling, and the entries of this book could not feel less like a list of facts. I often struggle with non-fiction, I tend to read it slowly and with difficulty (a side effect, I think, of reading so many literary theory essays at university). Now this is a topic that hugely interests me, and the podcast and novel have definitely added a few locations to my list of ‘Places I’d quite like to visit but perhaps not stay too long at because I’d inevitably get way too creeped out’. Moreover, this book can be funny. It’s hard to take stories of invisible people, gremlins who destroy planes and haunted dolls without at least a grain of salt. While the overall tone of this book is a serious one, Mahnke inserts moments of humour and awareness of the fact that most people, simply put, won’t believe in these things. Ours is a world where interconnectivity and logical reasoning have allowed for rational explanation of science and psychology where once there was witchcraft and mesmerism. Most rational-thinking people will not believe in werewolves or claim that their dead relatives are stealing their life from beyond the grave. But there’s just something about these stories, about the way that they are told in such a straightforward manner, that makes you wonder just a little at those loose ends and mysteries. After all, for as long as we’ve been telling stories, humanity has loved a scary one and what is scarier than the idea that we aren’t the ones in control? Humanity’s biggest fear is not being top of the food chain and here we see a past littered with tales that make that so.

Now, some of the entries are taken directly from the podcast – which is, I suppose, to be expected. Mahnke has been doing Lore for a long time and, well, there’s only so much folklore about vampires you can cover before you reach Mercy Brown once more.These stories are often padded out with more details and observations rather than just being a straight-up transcript of the podcast and even as someone who has listened to every episode multiple times I still found a huge enjoyment in reading the book. If you’re not a fan of podcasts, if audio fiction just isn’t your thing, Monstrous Creatures allows you to experience Lore for yourself without the possibility of your attention being distracted away resulting in you missing a chunk of the story.

The most fascinating thing about the world of Lore is that it is our world. That this is not fiction in the sense that it is based on what people really and truly believed. This is not a horror novel where these creatures were carefully constructed to terrify, or to personify deeper plot-based meaning, this is the story of how a man’s family were so desperate to save his life that they dug up the corpse of his sister because they had run out of any other options but to believe she was killing him from the grave, of how countless people have risked their public reputations and opinions on their sanity because they saw something that they don’t understand and they needed to tell someone. Most of all this is the story of how humanity has created demons in the shadows to avoid looking in the mirror. History has shown us that the only way we have coped with our own ability to do great and terrible things is to create a monster greater and more terrible upon which to blame them. Because sometimes horror stories pale in comparison to history books.

Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of5

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