Glorious Fiends by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Paperback 130 pages,
September, 2022 by Underland Press
Reading this book was a happy accident thanks to one of the authors who blurbed the book. Now Sam J. Miller who has made my best of the year list twice with Blackfish City and The Blade Between said "If Hellraiser and Netflix's Castlevania hooked up and had a trio of queer poly bad-ass lady babies." As great as that sounds it wasn't his blurb that sold me. After having interviewed Sam twice on two different podcasts I went to his signing at Mysterious Galaxy. As I waited to get in the long line to get my copy of Blackfish City signed Sam said "You should talk to David he is vegan and local."
So before I knew Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam was an author, we talked about all the glorious vegan food we have in San Diego, and where I should go if I come to her town in Texas. I took far too long to read this and I don't know if she listened to me and ate at Veganic Thai, but finally, we are here. I am sorry this sat on the TBR as long as it did. I like reading books by cool people and the good news is it is super fun!
Glorious Fiends is a dark monster bizarro gothic gore-drenched novella. Stufflebeam challenged my notions about a story being cute and gross at the same time, turns out that yes it can.
The story of Roxanne a manic, intense vampire...well she is a lot. When the guardian of the underworld gives her a task, she resurrects her besties a couple of classic monsters. When your best friends are Medusa and Mx. Hyde hijinks will ensue. The good news it is all entertaining gory, hot, and in the end, it will touch even the coldest hearts.
If you are a super-serious SF or horror reader then this book might not work for you. On paper, this is not the type of book I pick off the shelf. I like reading out of my comfort zone and the book was filled with moments that gave me a reason to smile.
Starting with the setting of the Great Library of Evil, a place you know you would love to browse. I love when one of the monsters picks up a living history book that is not finished, the book fills up as events unfold. There is a funny conversation about how annoying newly minted monsters are with their grand ideas. Medusa brings the funny conversation to a halt by admitting all she has wanted to do is fall in love. Medusa in many ways more than Roxanne wears the heart of this book on her sleeves.
Consider Medusa's introduction... "Your hair is amazing," Roxanne said. She stepped around MX Hyde, toward Medusa, and reached out to pet a snake.
"I wouldn't-" Medusa began, but the snake struck the fatty round of Roanne's thumb before the words left her mouth.
Roxanne cackled "What a vicious garment."
"It's not a garment," Medusa said. Her voice was strange;strangled, not at all like it had been that night. "It's me."
If there is a mission statement, and anyone who reads my reviews knows I am always on the lookout for them it is right here. Glorious Fiends is a wonderful story of misfits who accept and love each other through all the weird and unfortunate violence that comes with being a monster. If there is a more important theme for young weirdos I am not sure what it is. I say weirdos with love in my heart by the way.
Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam wrote a book that is not really my style but one I respect when done right. It is a short quick, fun read. At 130 pages it is not long but packs a ton of invention into the short page count and if you like funny weird monsters with a heart you can't go wrong. The book also won my heart a little bit when Stufflebeam used the notes of a theremin to describe the feeling of a scene. I laughed but the reason I liked it...I heard it in my head throughout the book that I sorta envisioned it in glorious black and white.