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Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  407 Ratings  ·  54 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)
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Ursula Pflug
May 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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'
Dec 15, 2013 rated it liked it

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"
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
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).
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
wish there was more from this author
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing

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 th
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
May 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia
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 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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'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.
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked 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.
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. These stories blew me away. Not so much sci fi or fantasy, as they are stories "with a fantastical element." The writing here was beautiful. Evocative. Haunting. Intense. I don't want to talk about particulars - I don't want to give anything away! There wasn't a single story I didn't feel immediately drawn into and compelled by. Definitely a must-read!!
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
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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
More about Maureen F. McHugh...

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