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Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  65 reviews
"Gorgeously crafted stories."
--Nancy Pearl (Book Lust) on Morning Edition, "Books for a Rainy Day""My favorite thing about her is the wry, uncanny tenderness of her stories. She has the astonishing ability to put her finger on the sweet spot right between comedy and tragedy, that pinpoint that makes you catch your breath. You're not sure whether to laugh out loud or cry, a
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ebook, 271 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Small Beer Press (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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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
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Terence
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
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Lea
I find favourite authors and favourite books so much more difficult to review than books I didn't like. As it happens, Maureen F. McHugh is one my favourite authors and this is a wonderful book of 12 short stories. I liked every single one of them, but there were some stand outs.

Ancestor Money (2003) - Dead Rachel receives a letter while she's in the afterlife, telling her she's to receive ancestor money. To collect it, she needs to travel to the Chinese afterlife. (Honorable Ancestress of Amel
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Ademption
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up. These are earlier stories from Maureen F. McHugh. Her characters and the settings matter much more than the story, and she struggles with endings. In this, McHugh reminds me of Zadie Smith.

McHugh often takes present day settings and adds a small technological change that gently marks her stories as sci-fi; otherwise, they would pass as slice-of-life short stories. The precipitating technology could be a tracking app that parents use on their teenagers, a cure for Alzheimer'
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Mothers & Other Monsters is domesticity redone through a science-fiction lens. McHugh runs to recurrent themes like a sore tooth: troubled adolescents on the cusp of adulthood, middle-aged women forced to care for someone ravaged by Alzheimer's. Fear, and love, and the ideals that people always fail to live up. She has some talent as a writer, except that she really struggles with endings. Her stories don't end, so much as close with a quick-jab to the solar plexus, a gasp of realization that it ...more
Nefeli
I don't really have anything negative to say about Mothers & Other Monsters. It is well written and definitely capable of evoking emotion. I just think that it wasn't for me.
It happens.
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mad
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captivating!

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
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Ken
Dec 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


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)

But

I'm glad I persisted because McHugh can touch one's right hemisphere through stories like "Presence"
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Megan
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
pax
This one has the one or other great individual story, but is overall not the place to start reading McHugh (go to the the brilliat China Mountain Zhang and return then, once you feel like you need to read everything by McHugh). ...more
Alexis
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Julio Biason
Mar 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ibooks
I now there are stories with a hidden subject, like "Arrival", in which the fact that understanding how the alien language works allow humans to break the barriers of time, and one could expect that stories with no eminent subject actually have a hidden one.

But I feel that doesn't happen here.

There are just... stories. And, sad to say, they are not even good.

There are points that never lead to anywhere, and doesn't seem related to the main history; most of them end with no conclusion at all (wil
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Luna Holmes
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shorts
Difficult topics: rape, murder, torture, death,human trafficking, family relationships, Alzheimer's, and Dementia
Excellent writing with plenty of thought provocation
Most of the profanity occurs within just one of the stories.
Jaime
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this a 4-star rating because I think Ms. McHugh is a great writer. I am not a big fan of uncomfortable stories with vague endings, but I was definitely riveted.
3sm3
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wish there was more from this author
Jon
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting collection.
Engel Dreizehn
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and often frightening collection of scifi/fantasy stories exploring themes of mothers (and other family monsters) against various aspects of society + technology.
Rebecca
Lovely short story collection of spec fic, mostly examining our relationships with family through technology.
Matevž
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing wrong with the stories as such...
But the writing style just doesn't sit with me. Somehow stories that end abruptly and mostly unresolved fail to interest me.
Eggp
Step-parenting sucks
woops, you lost your memory
your friend is a dog.
Sue Chant
May 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff-by-women, dnf
Gave up half way through. It's not badly written, but the stories don't go anywhere they just fizzle out.
Tamara
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Andrea
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, 2015, short-stories
Literary stories with sff perspectives. Some feel more literary, some feel more sff. I read through this really slowly for a lot of reasons. Sometime's I'd get a little stuck on a story. Sometimes it was because I couldn't tell how long the story was (Kindle, not marked by story). Sometimes it was because I really needed to read The Fifth Season. Overall I liked it, but there were a few stories that slowed me down, and some of those felt long. But there were a few stories that I thought were ama ...more
martha
May 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jenni
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoyed "we need to talk about Kevin"
What a collection. There was not a single story in this book that didn't drag some reaction from me. Most of the stories were short and surreal, with no real end point. Just a brief glimpse into the life of another person, in another situation.

The concept of "mother" fascinates me endlessly. We have such expectations, such a concrete image conjured up by one word. Maureen McHugh does not disappoint with her forays into the (often unexplored) darker sides of what this means.

Thoroughly recommend
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Melody
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Andy
Sep 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jennifer
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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".
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.
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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
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