Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Today is my turn on the Random Things Blog Tour of Brian Kirk’s We Are Monsters. Thank you to Anne Cater and Flame Tree Press for including me in the tour. We Are Monsters was released on January 16, 2020.

Rating: 8.5/10

Synopsis

When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum’s clinically insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the minds of his hospital’s most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free.

Review

We Are Monsters takes place at Sugar Hill mental asylum, where the clinically are housed and treated. The story is focused mostly around Dr. Alex Drexler, an up-and-coming psychiatrist who is working on a cure for schizophrenia. He is hoping to sell his new medication to a drug company and get rich. But when he gets stalled on the project his funding is pulled, and he continues to experiment with asylum patients off the books. Then Dr. Drexler goes too far and unlocks the demonic side of Sugar Hill. Now he and other members of the staff need to figure out what is going on and how to stop it if they are going to survive.

“The medicine makes you blind. Why don’t you cut out our eyes? Take them with you. Look through them and you’ll see what I see.”

It had been a little while since my last horror read, and I am glad I picked We Are Monsters to get my fix. This book did the trick. It has everything one could want in a horror story: ambitious doctors, a dark setting, blood and gore, and a whole lot of creepiness. I very much enjoyed reading it.

While the story on the surface is interesting, one of the best parts of the book is the way Brian Kirk weaves in and out of the past and the present. I am always a sucker for flashbacks, but for a book like We Are Monsters, in particular, this method writing is even more effective because of the way it sets the tone. As a reader, knowing the background of the characters and seeing where each one’s motive for their actions come from is really important because the most of the story take place in a psychiatric setting. Showing the flashbacks and history of the characters mimics the main plot as the doctors and nurses use the patients’ history when treating the patients at Sugar Hill; thus, flashing back to the previous actions and experiences of the staff is almost treating them as the patients to the reader. We experience the staff almost from the same eyes they are seeing their patients.

The story start a little slow, at first, but the author drops in enough interesting nuggets to keep the reader intrigued. Once the meat of the story picks up in the second half of the book it evolves into one that is too hard to put down. The narrative becomes so creepy and trippy such that as a reader I did not know what was real and what not. It kept me guessing at every turn, and because of that I did not want to stop reading. That is a true litmus test from me, and We Are Monsters passed with flying colors.

“They were sexless now. Their genitalia had been devoured by something other than a snake.”

I did think the dialogue was a little cheesy, at times, but for a book like this that is the hardest part to write and, honestly, the least important. I was also slightly surprised at the ending. It fell a little flat for me compared to the previous 150 pages, which is actually a compliment to the rest of the story. It took me on such a ride that I craved some kind of big bang at the end. I did not get my wish, but I am still happy with the book overall.

“We’re all dead here. We’re caught in the in-between.”

We Are Monsters is a really good read if you are looking for a horror fix. Think Stranger Things set in a mental asylum. I recommend it for fans of the genre, and anyone looking for a book to take them on a psychiatric roller coaster ride.

Brian Kirk is an author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense. His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July 2015 and re-released by Flame Tree Press on January 16, 2020, and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

5 thoughts on “Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

  1. I kinda liked it. I thought (like you) some of the dialogue was silly, but also the latter half of the story. On the plus sude, the characters were absolutely outstanding, as was treatment of the different psychiatric disciplines.

    Liked by 1 person

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