Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read book

Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  271 ratings  ·  45 reviews
In her debut collection, Maureen F. McHugh examines the impacts of social and technological shifts on families. Using deceptively simple prose, she illuminates the relationship between parents and children and the expected and unexpected chasms that open between generations.

Ancestor Money (2003)
In the Air (1995)
The Cost to Be Wise (1996)
The Lincoln Train (1995)
Paperback, 271 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Small Beer Press (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mothers & Other Monsters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mothers & Other Monsters

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 931)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I was reminded of Chekhov (the Russian author, not Enterprises' navigator) when reading this collection for several reasons:

(1) I'm in the midst of plowing through all 13 volumes of Constance Garnett's translations of Chekhov, so he's on my mind and the temptation to compare and contrast is strong.

(2) Like Chekhov, McHugh's stories (in this collection) tend to lack plots. There's not much "action," and rarely is there resolution. For example, in "The Cost to Be Wise" the villagers of a rediscove...more
Ursula Pflug
The following review appeared The New York Review of Science Fiction in October, 2006, reprinted from The Peterborough Examiner.

Maureen McHugh's first collection Mothers And Other Monsters was a finalist for this year’s Story Prize, inaugurated in 2004 to acknowledge and support the writing of quality short fiction in this age of the novel. Interestingly, all four of McHugh’s own novels, including her debut, the award winning China Mountain Zhang, are science fiction. Her high literary concerns...more

Finally got to read a collection from a writer whom everyone is raving about. Previously I had not been impressed because her choice of topics is so varied. So a story can be a hit or miss unless the reader has been "primed" beforehand. For example, I almost gave up midway on her more popular "the Cost to be Wise" (I love far futures and off world-ers, but huh? the world building is weak imho)


I'm glad I persisted because McHugh can touch one's right hemisphere through stories like "Presence"...more
Claudia Piña
Wow. Confieso que no estaba muy entusiasmada con este libro, pero me llamó la atención porque se puede conseguir gratuitamente aqui en Goodreads y decidí aprovechar la oportunidad.

Comencé a leerlo sin fijarme mucho en el género o las clasificaciones e ingenuamente esperaba clichés sobre las madres. Sin embargo, en un par de páginas superé mi escepticismo. Las historias tienen conceptos interesantes. Son una mezcla de ciencia ficción con un lado humano acerca de las relaciones familiares. Por sup...more
Feb 01, 2009 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
I skipped one of the stories, but all in all, I LOVED this collection. The perfect mix of bizarre, fantastic and strange circumstances and just generally good writing.

If I'd written this book, I could die a happy woman.

I was first introduced to Maureen McHugh’s work through After the Apocalypse: Stories (2011). I just so happened to spot a review of it online – just where that was escapes me now, sadly (reading recommendations, got any?) – and, in search of new post-apocalyptic fiction (bonus points for zombies!), I snapped it up immediately. After devouring it in all of a week, I quickly tore through her novels: Nekropolis (2002), China Mountain Zhang (1997), Half the Day is Night (1996), and the...more
Ketan Shah
Maureen F McHugh writes stories that defy categorisation. Some have sci fi aspects to them,while others are domestic vignettes of failed marriages or parent child relationships.Many combine the two,presenting stories that explore issues like cloning and rejuvenation from very personal perspectives, examining their impact of families,marriage and parenting. The best sci fi stimulates the mind and touches the heart,and McHugh succeeds resoundingly in this respect.If you enjoyed this, Daniel Keye's...more
This book contains most of the best of McHugh's short fiction, and is one of my favorite single author collections. They're all thoughtful, well-written pieces, and I can't pick out a single favorite. It's an excellent, very literary volume, one I pick up and read a piece from every other year or so.
Maureen McHugh is going to be a guest speaker at WisCON (the feminist sci-fi conference) that I am hoping to go to in Madison in May. I loved her earlier book China Mountain Zhang, so i was excited about this one. The short stories were not all sci-fi, which I was surprised about but not at all disappointed. And they were so interesting: about alzheimers, life after death, cloned children, and one about a lost colony from earth. Really compelling and well written, though I wanted most of them to...more
May 02, 2007 martha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like speculative fiction/experimental writing/alt.history/genre/short stories.
Recommended to me because I like Kelly Link, and it was great. (It's actually published by Kelly Link's press.) Stories about the afterlife or artificial intelligence or what-if-Lincoln-didn't-die or extraterrestrial pre-Industrial Revolution colonies or werewolves or slightly-futuristic technology, all fantastically written. Really diverse concepts, but similar themes, which is a nice trick, done well.

The Cost to Be Wise
The Lincoln Train
Eight-Legged Story
The Beast
Tim Hicks
Just because I didn't care for them doesn't mean these aren't good stories.

I read mostly sci-fi, and maybe I was expecting too much of that from an established SF author.

Instead, these are, um, what can I say, delicate vignettes that explore modern life and use speculative/fantasy elements as seasoning, or perhaps as something to lift the story out of the everyday just enough.

Just not my style. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited.
Maureen McHugh does a lovely job delineating the parameters of loss and the human ability to keep hoping in the face of such loss. She integrates speculative elements naturally and easily, and you accept them right away because they fit.

I am giving this collection four stars based on the strength of these particular stories: "The Lincoln Train" (which I wanted to be longer), "Oversite", "Laika Comes Back Safe", "Presence", "Nekropolis".
Technically very well written. Good flow of time and pace of most stories. Creative ideas and stories that reminded me a bit of Bradbury at times. Biggest problem/complaint was repetition of themes or items that are clearly involved or have impacted authors life. I like getting that knowledge and background of an author's life and mind from their writing, but in a collection of stories from one author some of these are a bit strong.
I picked it up because of the title. I brought it home because of the blurbs on the cover from Ursula K. Le Guin & Mary Doria Russell. I was not disappointed. Taut, concise short fiction with a delightfully odd imaginative twist. The stories are strikingly different from one another and all are as tight as a drumhead. There's a bit of alternate history, a bit of scifi, some straight fiction- all of it nicely plotted and interestingly told.
A great collection of short stories with everything from werewolves, ghosts, stepmothers, and heaven to dystopian worlds with tribal communities and alien technologies. McHugh's writing made me read this collection like it was a novel. Of course like After the Apocalypse, I'm left with wanting more.
Sep 09, 2007 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: any reader
Maureen McHugh, noted writer of science fiction, crosses over into mainstream (yet not boring) fiction with this choice and juicy book of stories. McHugh always adds a touch of speculation or sometimes something akin to magical realism (more real, but the effect is magical), and if she writes about the future, it's the future of ten minutes from now, prescient and pressing.
This book of beautifully crafted short stories will knock you off your feet. Seriously. I am not usually into the Sci-Fi genre but these stories were engaging from the beginning. After reading a bit more about the author I found out my favorite short story from this collection, Nekropolis, was expanded into a full-length novel. I can't wait to read it!
mchugh's writing is always interesting to me because in multiple ways it's posed in a state of tension between opposites: emotional sensitivity vs restraint, genre vs literary fiction, individuality vs community, thematic repetition vs exploration. i've really liked her novels, but short stories seem like an even more natural fit.
I've wondered if the McHughs characters seem so real because they're often so depressed. This was a free electronic book that I read on a touch. Many of the stories were meditations on motherhood or caretaking, one was a precursor to Nekropolis. It wasn't all her best stuff, but an interesting collection.
I've wondered if the McHughs characters seem so real because they're often so depressed. This was a free electronic book that I read on a touch. Many of the stories were meditations on motherhood or caretaking, one was a precursor to Nekropolis. It wasn't all her best stuff, but an interesting collection.
some new stories, some originals that were turned into novels. stories about the difficult decisions people make when they are put in the small impossible situations of human life. it is probably what people mean by "mundane sf", but in the best possible way. these people are very familiar.
some of these stories were terribly disturbing, but they were almost uniformly fascinating. i liked it better than china mountain zhang, which i don't think i gave a fair enough shake in the first place.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
McHugh is possibly the best writer to tackle the sandwich problem (women taking care of children and aging parents simultaneously) in SF. Not all of the stories concern this theme, but many of them are quite lovely.
A surprisingly engaging collection of short stories, spanning the genres. A resemblance to the twilight Zone cliched format is quickly dispelled.....these stories are not predictable and will surprise you.
...Wow. I don't really have anything more intelligent to say than that...

(Except that it's also free. What have you got to lose?)
Jul 19, 2011 Kristen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristen by: Meghan Kleon
Fantastic collection. Quick reads. You think you know the story or the setting and then something fantastical utterly surprises you. Sometimes more successfully than others, but all worth reading.
Adrienne Kiser
One of these short stories - "Wicked" - may be one of the best things I've read in a long time. It's VERY short (a couple of pages) but is absolutely perfect. I loved it.
Fran Grote
Jun 07, 2008 Fran Grote is currently reading it
McHugh's incredibly incisive character development and imaginative situations make this collection of short stories a joy to read. Can't wait to get to more of the stories in it.

I read the first two stories, which were compelling right up until the endings. I started the third story, realized I couldn't invest myself, and stopped.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 31 32 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Meet Me in the Moon Room
  • The Ant King: And Other Stories
  • What I Didn't See: Stories
  • Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing
  • Filter House
  • The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
  • The Drowned Life
  • Portable Childhoods
  • North American Lake Monsters: Stories
  • The Third Bear
  • Dangerous Space
  • Errantry: Strange Stories
  • Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology
  • In the Forest of Forgetting
  • The New Weird
  • Unpossible and Other Stories
  • Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was
  • Stories of Your Life and Others
Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Her first published story appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1989. Since then, she has written four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for h...more
More about Maureen F. McHugh...
China Mountain Zhang After the Apocalypse Nekropolis Mission Child Half the Day is Night

Share This Book

“The Second Koran tells us that the darkness in ourselves is a sinister thing. It waits until we relax, it waits until we reach the most vulnerable moments, and then it snares us. I want to be dutiful. I want to do what I should. But when I go back to the tube, I think of where I am going; to that small house and my empty room. What will I do tonight? Make more paper flowers, more wreaths? I am sick of them. Sick of the Nekropolis.

I can take the tube to my mistress' house, or I can go by the street where Mardin's house is. I'm tired. I'm ready to go to my little room and relax. Oh, Holy One, I dread the empty evening. Maybe I should go by the street just to fill up time. I have all this empty time in front of me. Tonight and tomorrow and the week after and the next month and all down through the years as I never marry and become a dried-up woman. Evenings spent folding paper. Days cleaning someone else's house. Free afternoons spent shopping a bit, stopping in tea shops because my feet hurt. That is what lives are, aren't they? Attempts to fill our time with activity designed to prevent us from realizing that there is no meaning?”
More quotes…