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We Are Monsters

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Some doctors are sicker than their patients. When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum's criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospital's most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free.

Flame Tree Press is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

372 pages, Paperback

First published July 7, 2015

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About the author

Brian Kirk

17 books112 followers
Brian Kirk is a Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense. His debut novel, WE ARE MONSTERS, was released in July 2015. In addition to being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, WE ARE MONSTERS was optioned for film development by Executive Producer, Jason Shuman.

His short fiction has been published in many notable magazines and anthologies, most recently Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories alongside multiple New York Times bestselling authors.

Visit his website for more information, or just to chat. Don't worry, he only kills his characters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 207 reviews
Profile Image for Luvtoread.
476 reviews265 followers
October 10, 2022
A Surreal And Psychological, Nightmarish Horror Story! This book involves psychiatrists, patients with severe mental disorders and the institution where many, many events will take place. One older doctor who is the director of the facility believes in treating patients with behavioral therapy modification instead of debilitating drugs and electric shock treatments where the patient, especially schizophrenic disorders are barely cognitive and functional on the lowest scale possible. The other physician strongly believes in drug therapy but is working on creating a new drug that will bring schizophrenic patients back to their old selves before their mind started to shatter. The physicians do have a mutual respect for each other but there will be many unfortunate and unforseen consequences from the actions of both of these men and to so many others who happen to be in the building on this one particular day and they will have to depend on one another if they are to save any lives.

This was a very creative and at times a mind-boggling story that was well-written and interesting with many cringe worthy moments. The storyline was very good and there were horror elements although I felt the story was more of a science fiction book. I did enjoy the book although it never reached the heightened horror that I was hoping for. The story made me feel sad for so many people that land in these facilities and how many of these patients were mistreated by some of their caretakers. (Very sad and disheartening). There are many monsters intertwined whether human or nonhuman. I am probably in the minority with my opinion but I do recommend reading this book and forming your own ideas.

I want to thank the publisher "Flame Tree Press" and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC!

I have given a rating of 3 Surreal 🌟🌟🌟 Stars!!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,393 reviews7,247 followers
July 1, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Half the patients were put in here because they claim to talk to God. But preachers do the same thing and they’re put in positions of power and praise.”

When I saw We Are Monsters available for grabs I was super stoked. I mean, a book about the apocalypse (real one, not zombie version) coming to an insane asylum????? YES PLEASE!!!!! But then I read it and I was all . . .

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First, I’m pretty sure before it’s all said and done someone out there is going to inform me how I read this one wrong - and second, Mitchell is going to seriously hurt me if I keep forcing him to read stuff we both end up not liking. *shrug* It is what it is.

This book started out strong. Mental hospital, a doctor with a real God complex, a serial killer who believed he was saving the world from the End of Days. Such excite Mitchell and I both had! But then we reached the halfway point . . .

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and it just didn’t work for me any longer. All of the build-up that had me on the edge of my seat abruptly stopped, the tone of the story changed, hell the entire plot morphed into something else. I’m sure this book will work for many, but for me? The two halves seemed totally disjointed, the message got a little too preachy . . . .

“We’re sick. We’re all sick. But we can be cured. And we can be kind. And we don’t have to let our lives be ruled by the shadows of the past. Not if we act through love.”

and basically . . .

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ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 18 books3,698 followers
January 14, 2020
3.5 stars!
WE ARE MONSTERS is Brian Kirk's debut novel. It was released in 2016. Now, it has a new cover and some other special features-given new life/re-released by Flame Tree Press. Its publication date is January 30th, 2020 but you can use this code: NIGHTMONSTERS to buy it before the scheduled release.

WE ARE MONSTERS is an ambitious idea for a novel.
It tackles huge issues like mental illness, psychiatric treatments, and radical pharmaceutical trials. I don't know anything about how all of that works in the real world, but reading about it in this book gave me anxiety. I feel like this is one of those subjects an author needs to do a lot of research to make sure they represent this issue well since it's a very personal subject for many people. I'm certain that Kirk must have done extensive research for this one because the medical jargon here sounded legit enough to my untrained mind. My anxieties were appeased.

Sugar Hill is an alternative medicine treatment facility for mentally ill patients. There is quite a large cast of characters introduced rather quickly, so I jotted down their names and any important info like occupation and relationship in order to keep them straight. I should mention I didn't warm up to or invest emotionally in any of the main characters. I actually disliked our protagonist, Dr. Alex Drexler. There's a scene early on involving a pet that turned me off to his character immediately.
But at least there is *plenty* of character development here. Brian Kirk creates a backstory for almost everybody and I appreciated it--but get this: Maybe it was too much? I hate having to say that but I feel like the pacing in the first part of the book got bogged down with a lot details/information. That being said, I was engaged in the story.
The last half of this book is when Brian Kirk challenges his readers to go deeper. There are some heavy themes of our own thorns of contention, mental health, and suffering through the consequences of our actions. Also, the horror of insanity! Can we just mention how terrifying it would be for your own mind to turn against itself? Letting go of all rationality; no longer subject to reason?
I applaud Brian Kirk for bringing the idea of this story from conception to fruition because like I said earlier, this is ambitious. Ambitious and original.
The idea of tackling the nuts and bolts of a drug that is designed to cure schizophrenia but ends up unlocking one's "inner demons" sounds daunting to me but after reading this book--it's my assessment that Brian Kirk sticks the landing. The title, WE ARE MONSTERS and the main thrust of this book wrestles with our own monsters we battle but also the battle that must be fought on behalf of the mentally ill--their mistreatment and marginalization. I came away from this with plenty to mull over and chew on.
Even if I wasn't able to track everything as I read it, it's my opinion that other readers more familiar with the topic will have no trouble.
Recommended for fans of: Asylum, Psychological, and Insanity horror.

This book was sent to the Night Worms Review Team as part of a "Book Party" campaign hosted by Night Worms and organized by me (Mother Horror). About 20 readers/reviewers were given in exchange for an honest review of the book. We all celebrated the book's upcoming release with a special code for an early release purchase.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
1,656 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2015
WE ARE MONSTERS, by Brian Kirk gives us a close up look at a mental institution with two doctors who have very different approaches on how to help their patients. Dr. Eli Alpert prefers a compassionate, drug-free approach when possible. Unfortunately for the residents of this facility, Dr. Alex Drexler has just formulated a new drug that he feels will cure schizophrenia.

Newly arrived Crosby Nelson, known as the "Apocalypse Killer" seems to be the perfect candidate for Alex's "cure". What if, instead of healing patients, the new drug opens a doorway in their minds that simply lets their inner demons out into the world at large?

Within the inherent horror of this story lies a deeper, emotional tale of how we, as a society, view the mentally ill. Dr. Eli ponders if " ...insanity is the ultimate freedom. It's the people who adapt to this crazy world that we need to watch out for. " Another instance: " We're all sick. But we can be cured.....And we don't have to let our lives be ruled by the shadows of the past... "

Kirk does a phenomenal job with his characterization! Each person in this novel feels fully fleshed out--an individual personality with unique needs and viewpoints. From the main characters, to some of the infrequently mentioned ones, I felt that Brian Kirk put an incredible amount of detail into making them ALL "real" to the reader.

One quote that I felt reflected particularly well on one character's view of the patients: " ...saw them in a different light. They no longer looked deranged or dangerous or mentally unhinged. They looked like regular people...real and worthy of kindness and compassionate attention. "

This was a wonderfully engaging novel on so many levels--full of atmospheric tension, emotion, and incredible characterization. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Highly recommended!

*I received an advance copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
545 reviews120 followers
May 7, 2021
We Are Monsters is a uniquely structured, character-driven, psychological horror story. Written by Brian Kirk, this is his debut novel, which ended up being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

It takes place at Sugar Hill, an asylum for the mentally ill and criminally insane. The chief medical director, Dr. Eli Alpert, is compassionate and treats his patients with respect and dignity. His approach is more humanistic, and he strives for drug-free methods of rehabilitation.

Dr. Drexler is a psychiatrist that works there. He is more intense, and is all about "new" therapy, "new" treatments, and "new" drugs. In fact, he secretly develops a new experimental drug that could potentially cure schizophrenia, but he loses funding. Trying to figure out how to keep working on his drug, he comes up with a way to keep experimenting, and that way is by testing it on his patients at the asylum. Unfortunately, there ends up being several side effects. When Crosby Nelson, aka "The Apocalypse Killer," a new and extremely dangerous patient arrives, he too is experimented on and the side effects open his mind, setting his innermost demons free.

The author, Brian Kirk, manages to build his characters, explaining each of them to a point as if you knew them personally. It is a frightening and intense thriller that weaves together the best and worst of all of us. It mixes horror and compassion, and throughout the story the characters are forced to face external hostility and inner demons. It shows that we humans can end up being the real monsters.

Find this book and other titles within our catalog.
Profile Image for warhawke.
1,272 reviews1,909 followers
December 21, 2019
Genre: Horror
Type: Standalone
POV: Third Person

Under Dr. Eli Alpert’s tutelage, Sugar Hill became one of the most esteemed asylums. As technology advanced, his protege Dr. Alex Drexler had the vision to take the hospital into new height by using a groundbreaking drug to cure schizophrenia. But Alex’s ambition could unravel the very thread that held everything together.

I love books that feature mental illness, and I went into this one with certain expectations regarding the story direction. The first half was how I imagined it would be, but it took me for a wild ride in the second half of the book like crazy on crack.

“Yeah, I know how certain thoughts can be scary for people in positions of power. It’s a form of censorship. Everyone hears voices in their head, but some are considered crazy, others sane. Depends on what the voices are saying, it seems.”

There were a lot of characters in this book and each of them had their own interesting background. However, there was a certain character that played a pivotal role, yet there wasn’t enough info on how the character descended into the situation.

“There’s something liberating about the idea of losing it. About just letting go and giving in to our natural inhibitions. It’s too stressful trying to be perfect all the time.”

What I loved the most about this book is how the characters were forced to see things from a different perspective. I enjoyed seeing their struggles and their rise/fall in coping.

We Are Monsters is a story of facing inner demons. It would appeal to fans of gory psychological horror.

♦ ☠ ♦ . . . (F)BR With Twinsie CC . . . ♦ ☠ ♦

For more reviews/reveals/giveaways visit:

Profile Image for Luvtoread.
476 reviews265 followers
February 24, 2020
A Surreal And Psychological, Nightmarish Horror Story!

This book involves psychiatrists, patients with severe mental disorders and the institution where many, many events will take place. One older doctor who is the director of the facility believes in treating patients with behavioral therapy modification instead of debilitating drugs and electric shock treatments where the patient, especially schizophrenic disorders are barely cognitive and functional on the lowest scale possible. The other physician strongly believes in drug therapy but is working on creating a new drug that will bring schizophrenic patients back to their old selves before their mind started to shatter. The physicians do have a mutual respect for each other but there will be many unfortunate and unforseen consequences from the actions of both of these men and to so many others who happen to be in the building on this one particular day and they will have to depend on one another if they are to save any lives.

This was a very creative and at times a mind-boggling story that was well-written and interesting with many cringe worthy moments. The storyline was very good and there were horror elements although I felt the story was more of a science fiction book. I did enjoy the book although it never reached the heightened horror that I was hoping for. The story made me feel sad for so many people that land in these facilities and how many of these patients were mistreated by some of their caretakers. (Very sad and disheartening). There are many monsters intertwined whether human or nonhuman. I am probably in the minority with my opinion but I do recommend reading this book and forming your own ideas.I

I want to thank the publisher "Flame Tree Press" and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC!

I have given a rating of 3 Surreal 🌟🌟🌟 Stars!!
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,113 reviews226 followers
January 24, 2020
“It’s official. The Apocalypse has come to Sugar Hill.”
Alex, Eli and Angela work together in the forensics ward of Sugar Hill, which houses and treats the criminally insane. Angela is a social worker who is described by a friend as “Dr. Do Good by day and Little Miss Devil by night”. Alex Drexler is a psychiatrist whose views on treatment are diametrically opposed to those of his boss and mentor, Dr Eli Alpert, Sugar Hill’s Chief Medical Director. Eli’s approach is humanistic, with a focus on treating patients with dignity and respect. Meanwhile, Alex is in the process of trialling an experimental drug to cure schizophrenia.
Why did the mind have the capacity to create delusions? To hallucinate? To perceive the unreal? And why, so often, did such altered states appear to the perceiver as the actual reality? A world more real than this one.
When the funding for his trials is withdrawn, Alex winds up continuing his experiment. His latest subject is Sugar Hill’s newest patient, Crosby Nelson, the Apocalypse Killer. Because what could possibly go wrong when you use a mentally ill, traumatised serial killer as your guinea pig?!

More background information is provided about characters than I’m used to seeing in horror books. This took me out of the story initially although I could understand the relevance of this information later on. It’s not only the patients whose pasts haunt them and it’s not always obvious who should be a patient, especially when the workers’ own demons are revealed.
Either she is insane, or I am. Or nobody is. Or we all are. Either way, who am I to say?
The only character I really liked was Eli. I think I would have liked Crosby as well but I didn’t get much of a sense of who he was outside of his mental health and trauma histories. Fortunately it’s not necessary to love horror book characters. I enjoyed hoping Alex would get a taste of his own medicine and I couldn’t wait for a couple of other nasties to get their comeuppance.

At times it felt like a hallucinogen was wafting off the pages. I wasn’t always especially clear about what was really going on during the more trippy parts.
He was now unsure which reality had been a dream and which one was real.
If I’d encountered this sense of unease, not being able to easily discern reality, in another book I’d probably tell you it was a reason I didn’t like it. This book, though? It was like I was being given a glimpse into what life must be like all the time for some of the residents of Sugar Hill and it was scary to even contemplate living in their worlds.

While I’ve known a lot of people with various mental illnesses, my knowledge of schizophrenia and psychosis are limited to the DSM-5 and random articles and books I’ve read. Because of this I cannot comment on the accuracy of their depictions in this book but I didn’t come across anything that stood out to me as ‘there’s something wrong with this picture’ symptom wise.

Between the graphic violence () and derogatory terms used for pretty much anyone you can think of, sometimes challenged but oftentimes not, this book isn’t going to be for everyone. If having anything uncomfortably close to your eyes makes you squeamish you may have trouble with some scenes.

Content warnings include .

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.
Profile Image for Andrew Robert.
Author 1 book435 followers
January 1, 2021
We Are Monsters is a dark and expansive look into the world of the criminally insane. Brian Kirk is incredible, he had my mind reeling in terror as I tore through this tale of those who suffer from madness and mania.

Crosby Nelson dubbed The Apocalypse Killer has arrived at Sugar Hill Mental Asylum and is under the care of Dr. Alex Drexler and Dr. Eli Alpert. This facility treats many of the state's psychotic criminals and although they have conflicting methods of treatment, Alpert and Drexler are committed to the rehabilitation of its residents but to what extent? Drexler begins the testing phase of his experimental drug that suppresses the delusions affecting the minds of people suffering from schizophrenia. Although Drexler believes his tests are a success, there are some side effects that are worse than the affliction itself. What evil has the good doctor awoken in those who reside in Sugar Hill Mental Asylum?

Something I find so appealing about psychology horror involving asylums is the intrigue. I say this purely from a fictional point of view. I always wonder about the secrets held within the facility's walls. What kind of terrifying procedures the doctors could and would perform? What horrifying incidents took place between patients and orderlies in padded rooms? You just know there are some wild stories to be told about places like Sugar Hill Mental Asylum and Brian Kirk tells one hell of a dreadful tale in We are Monsters.

I feel inclined to mention how much I like the readability of this book. The author is exploring a lot of medical scenarios and could easily have used terminology unbeknownst to most people. I think almost anyone could pick up this novel and have no issues keeping up with the story and holding a firm grasp on what is happening. The short chapters also made this an easy read. I love when books are formatted that way, they just seem to go by so quickly. 

This book has some serious character development going on. In general, this is something I like in a story but I thought Brian Kirk took it a little to far here. There are a lot of chapters dedicated to back story which helps familiarize the reader with the characters and why they make the decisions they make. Is it weird to say that I enjoy this the most when it's a character I hate? I was not a fan of Dr. Alex Drexler. I wouldn't say he's THE bad guy here, but he's a bad guy and how he came to be was very interesting. When I say the author took it a little to far, I'm talking about Drexler's mentor Dr. Eli Alpert. I found his back story to drag on. Obviously, the author wrote with intent and every part of the story has a purpose but those chapters of the book hindered my reading experience. 

I thoroughly enjoyed We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk. Fans of horror will revel in the depths with which the author explores the minds of the mentally unstable. Let's take a walk through the halls of Sugar Hill Mental Asylum and seek the truth to the dark secrets that reside within its walls.


Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
678 reviews414 followers
January 15, 2020
Thank you so much Night Worms, Brian Kirk, and Flame Tree Press for my free copy.

A horror book with a mental asylum, paranoid schizophrenics, and clinical drug trials was too good to pass up! Brian Kirk’s WE ARE MONSTERS starts off with some of the more intriguing few chapters I’ve come across - I was absolutely addicted.

Dr. Eli Alpert deals with the most psychotic criminals. Luckily, his mentee, Alex Drexler, is working on a drug that will cure schizophrenia, by ridding patients of their terrifying delusions and hallucinations. However, instead of eradicating these problems, the treatment evokes past traumas and internal darkness. But, are the patients the only monsters?

This is Kirk’s rereleased debut novel so I am impressed with how well the story and the characters are developed. WE ARE MONSTERS takes you on a very strange and unusual ride. It starts out full of intrigue and creepiness, then you get a very detailed account of the characters, and finally it finishes with an unorthodox ending. My favorite aspect of the book is the writing style and although it lost my attention for a short while, I loved the overall reading experience. I felt as if the author, by design, wanted me to feel just as insane as his characters. I will definitely not hesitate to read another book by Kirk.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,625 reviews1,603 followers
January 15, 2020
3.5 stars rounded up to 4

Dr. Eli Alpert works with the criminally insane patients at Sugar Hill Psychiatric Hospital. His protege, Dr. Alex Drexler thinks medication is the way forward in the treatment of the patients. He's been trialling a medication of his own creation. But then trials aren't going well. He gets a new group of patients to conduct his tests on. This time he alters the medication and as a result, he's opened up the patients minds more than he intended to. He's released new horrors in the hospital.

I found this to be a thought provoking read. There are some great characters (not that I'd like to e a y of them). Thr author has researched the history on how mental health has been treated over the years. I also liked his style in writing this book. The book starts slowly but I'm glad I stuck with it. This is a dark read filled with tension and emotion. I quite enjoyed this book which is different to the type of ook I normally read.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Flame Tree Press and the author Brian Kirk for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mindi.
774 reviews263 followers
January 14, 2020
I think this one is going to stick with me for a while. More than anything in this novel, Kirk's first, I felt a connection to the characters, especially Dr. Eli Alpert. Like most of the people either living or working at Sugar Hill Mental Asylum, everyone is broken to some degree. While some of the patients see demons, in particular a new patient named Crosby Nelson, other's carry their demons inside them. Eli has many issues himself, definitely PTSD from serving in Vietnam, perhaps even worse mental illnesses, even though he is the Chief Medical Director of Sugar Hill.

It's those human aspects that I found the most fascinating. The way a hospital for the mentally insane can be run by people who are almost just as broken as their patients. Some of my favorite passages are actually flashbacks. The chapters where Eli meditates while thinking about his time with his fiancé, Lacy, in India, are some of the most touching parts of the novel. Essentially, everything that gives each character more backstory makes them more well rounded and relatable. The doctors and staff at Sugar Hill want to help others because they bear scars of their own. Some people are able to bury the terrible things that happened to them, but that doesn't necessarily make them stronger or more sane. It really just makes them highly functioning but broken people.

Eli's protégé, Dr. Alex Drexler has issue just like everyone else. And perhaps it's these issues and buried traumas that cause the doctors and nurses at Sugar Hill to ultimately choose their professions. But Alex wants to do more than merely help his patients. He wants to create a drug that will cure schizophrenia. After a number of failed trials he thinks that he has finally created a drug that will actually work, but Alex has a lot riding on the success of his drug, and not much confidence for the finished product. Eventually his hubris causes him to use a massive dose on a violent patient that ends up having repercussions for everyone at Sugar Hill. Suddenly each of their main characters is thrust into a nightmare of their own making.

While Alex is probably my least favorite character in the novel, his greed can be understood. Too brilliant to understand how to interact as a child, and basically having lived as an outcast in his own home while growing up, he craves the and attention (and of course the money as well) that his potential miracle cure could bring. Nurse Angela punishes herself nightly without consciously realizing why. She is another character that I really felt for. When she actually confronts the reason she behaves so dangerously, I admit I had tears in my eyes.

This is a novel about mental illness and a radical cure, but the stories behind the characters and their actions make it so much more. Kirk writes amazing characters that you come to care for despite their problems and shortcomings. And that's what makes me a fan. That's what keeps me coming back to his writing. This is definitely a horror novel with supernatural elements, but even more than that, this is a story about people. People who learn to deal with the demons they carry in order to help those who feel as if those demons are actually real. Everyone at Sugar Hill has their own personal monsters.
Profile Image for CC.
1,038 reviews610 followers
December 22, 2019

At Sugar Hill mental asylum, patients have been ethically treated under the direction of Dr. Eli Alpert. With his views on how to treat patients, he has been well respected until his protégé, Dr. Alex Drexler, presents the possibility of a miracle drug to treat schizophrenia. With conflicting interests, the promise of success changes the expected course.

“What’s wrong with this world if a normal, sane person can be plucked out of it and placed in this pocket of insanity?”

This narrative is divided into two parts with deep character development but the shift in focus takes on a completely new dynamic after the second half. Delving into morality, transgressions and trauma, the characters must confront what they fear. With a mixture of horror and apocalyptic doom, lines are blurred and reality becomes questionable.

“He said he could no longer hold it at bay. That he was forced to let it in. And he couldn’t control what it wanted him to do.”

What I liked about this story is how each character had significant issues and how they dealt with conflict and pain. As such, the distinction between doctor and patient crossed with all being treated as individuals and not lesser because of a known condition. Though I would have liked the second half to have granted the reader a bit more access, the element of the unknown underscored the characters’ confusing and life-altering experiences.

We are Monsters is a story with a sense of darkness in humanity but also serves to show the road to redemption.

*An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.*

*This was a (F)BR with Twinsie Hawkey.*

For more reviews/reveals/giveaways visit:

Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,529 reviews315 followers
January 13, 2020
I'm a huge lover of asylum horror. The methods that have been put into place can be seen as a torture of their own to help those not quite of sound mind. We've all heard of shock therapy, lobotomies, water logging and allllll the medications. What realities do the criminally insane live in and can they truly be helped? Dr. Eli and Alex are determined to make this happen. But what happens when the doctors may turn out to be bigger monsters than the ones they are helping? Or are they? It's all perspective at some point.

The book starts off strong - love the character development. We get an insight to where these characters are going and how the story my lend itself to the horror within. I did find certain parts a bit too dense for my taste and found my attention waning at times. Then in the last third, it shifts so completely I almost thought I was reading a different book. This can be a bit jarring but once I realized I was as lost as the characters, I found myself back into the read.

Most fascinating to me was the use of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT, also known as the Spirit Molecule - a book I've read and a drug I experienced once) and the whole time I felt the same as Eli: "I question the scientific accuracy of your hypothesis, but I'm following your point." I'm intrigued as to the author's experience and research within this subject matter. I think due to my own research and experience I was reading certain parts with a furrowed brow. At the same time, I was also loving the direction he took. Who doesn't love the insanity of it all?

I'm torn between needing more cohesiveness and less density to a read that took me from a build up of what's going to happen straight to what the fuck is going on ... and loving how the author took us on a journey where our realities are also changed and we're now feeling just as insane as the rest of them.
Profile Image for Shane Douglas Douglas.
Author 6 books63 followers
December 17, 2015
I don’t usually read other people’s reviews before writing my own. I’m always afraid that they’ll influence or somehow bias my opinion of a given work. But in the case of WE ARE MONSTERS it was hard to avoid. A lot of people are raving about this book, including Brian Keene and John F.D. Taff, two outstanding authors that really know their business and don’t generally engage in hyperbole.

There was one review, however, that wasn’t so positive and it’s that one that I’m going to address here (this does have a point, so stay with me). To paraphrase, the reviewer said, “spends easily two thirds of the book developing the characters, thereby slowing the book down…”

I don’t agree. In fact, it’s this aspect of the book that really makes all the rest of the thing work. It’s a good example of a talented young author who has his priorities straight. Character development is paramount to a strong story. Without it, everything else fails. There were some minor slowdowns, sure, but nothing so drastic as to dampen a reader’s enjoyment and nothing even remotely related to character development. Plus, while Kirk is building his characters, he’s also building his settings and his storyline, slowly creating tension, building suspense and plot piece by meticulous piece. It’s a common method in psychological horror and it’s used to great effect here, making the balls to the wall, breathtaking action in the later part of the book that much more meaningful. By that point in the story, the reader has a strong grasp of setting and a good love/hate relationship going with the hopelessly, delightfully flawed protagonists.

All that said, if someone were to ask me if there were slowdowns I would have to say yes. There were a few very brief, very minor snippets of internal monologue that slowed things down to some degree, but that’s an issue of pacing not character development. Pacing is a difficult thing to master, even for an experienced author and for a debut novel, Kirk handles it admirably.

WE ARE MONSTERS is a uniquely structured, engaging psychological horror story that becomes less and less psychological and more blow your brains out your ears horrific as it moves along. A lot of authors have written books based in mental hospitals–Ken Kesey and Victor LaValle come to mind–but nobody has written one like this. As the story progresses and the characters are forced to face external hostility and their own inner demons you may find yourself having to face some demons of your own.

Overall, WE ARE MONSTERS is a knockout punch for Kirk and I think this is a book–and an author–that we’ll be hearing a lot more about in the future. That’s my hope anyway. Brian Kirk is a talented young man and WE ARE MONSTERS is one of the best debuts of the year. Do yourself a favor. Go get this book, read it, then come back and shower me with thank yous.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,385 reviews976 followers
June 15, 2015
This was a clever little novel - haunting, often very disturbing with some great characters and a really intriguing premise. I hesitate to put it in a box - it is part thriller, part character drama, part horror leading to a very eclectic and interesting read.

Very impressive for a debut in its construction and multi layered themes, a look at the treatment of the mentally ill using a deliciously dark format and idea - this draws you into a strange world where not everything is as it seems.

Beautifully deep, the author having obviously taken the time to research the subject matter, this is fiction with a strong dose of reality weaved into the narrative. As you take a walk on the wild side with the inhabitants and physicians of Sugar Hill asylum, you will be engaged and absolutely fascinated.

This is a novel best served cold - I didn't really have much idea of what was coming when I started it, frankly I just got caught by the cover. What I found was a really most terrific and well written tale which makes me want to read more from this author as soon as possible.

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Ian.
354 reviews51 followers
June 8, 2021
‘Guilt trips galore down at Sugar Hill’

This entertaining piece of horror fiction started strongly at the beginning when set in a usual and expected asylum environment which then drifted into the direction of a surreal ‘hidden inner demon’ dream-like state scenario whilst searching for answers to the meaning of this apparent new reality and attempting to find resolution to some rather big, big questions regarding mental illness and existing possible treatment techniques designed to combat it.

A great start to the story, good characterisation and with some good action throughout, although it did rather spiral into too many chases down long corridors which then led to too many questions being left in limbo for my liking. By the end, I found it all to be a bit patchy, slightly confusing and rather unclear which strangely enough might just be what the author was hoping to achieve for his readers from the very outset.

A decent debut novel which suggests plenty of promise of good things to come from this author.

Rating: 3.2 stars designed to just blow the mind.
Profile Image for Matt (TeamRedmon).
313 reviews56 followers
January 15, 2020
I read We Are Monsters as part of a book party with Night Worms review team. Thank you so much, Night Worms, Brian Kirk, and Flame Tree Press for my free copy.

I was leery going into this book because of the theme of dealing with mental illness as a source of horror. I'm a special education teacher and have had experience working with individuals with various mental illnesses. I'm always hesitant of anything that could make those with mental illnesses to seem less than human. I can tell you that my fears were unfounded. I thought that Brian Kirk handled the subject very well and treated the people that have these disorders with respect.

Sugar Hill Mental Hospital is a facility that houses and treats individuals with severe mental illness. The majority of the patients have the potential to be harmful to themselves or others. The head of Sugar Hill is Dr. Eli Alpert, and his second is Dr. Alex Drexler. These two men could not be more different, and I found myself wondering how realistic it was for them to work together for so long. Eli is a paragon of medical and professional ethics, and he believes that to treat the mental illness, you must first treat the patient as a person. Eli is my guy. Alex is all about them shiny gadgets and new medicine. Mental illness is just a puzzle to be unlocked, and it doesn't matter what makes the patients happy or comfortable; they are there to be cured, not coddled. Alex is, definitely, not my guy. Alex also has an interaction with a dog that makes him irredeemable to me. So, naturally, the main protagonist in this story is Alex. Alex is developing a miracle drug that will cure schizophrenia, and he is in the midst of clinical trials that are not going well. Alex, being the kind of guy that he is, decides just to go ahead and do some unregulated human tests. I won't go further than that with the plot to avoid spoilers.

A lot has been made of the jarring transition that takes place in the middle of this book. I didn't mind it, and I thought that the idea was interesting and handled well. My problem with the entire experience with this book is that it was just too long. There is a butt-ton of character work at the beginning of the book, perhaps too much. The action at the end of the book also felt repetitive at times. By the time I read the last page, I was happy to be finished, which is not the emotion I want when I finish a book. In the end, I liked the book for what it was. For me, at least, it was a good story but not a great story. I settled on a 3.5 rounded up to a four-star rating. Your mileage may differ but if this sounds like something you would enjoy, I recommend that you give it a go!
Profile Image for Alex | | findingmontauk1.
1,060 reviews98 followers
January 13, 2020
Asylums and serial killers with paranoid schizophrenia?! Sign me up! If those two things do not intrigue you, then perhaps it is worth adding that one of the doctors in the asylum here wants to use an experimental drug on one of the nation's most horrific killers to "cure" his schizophrenia. But when doing so it is like reality bends and all the "inner demons" of this murderer are unleashed on the world... or at least within the walls of the asylum. What is real and what is a lie? How are will you go to help someone?

One of my favorite aspects of this book is all of the character development. I got to know these characters and find out how they ticked. But it is all for a greater purpose, as well. We have to get to know them because we have to be able to understand just what they are afraid of and what might break them. This is seen later on in the final third of the book.

This book is quite unputdownable as the pace of the story is strong and has a good mix of different story lines and characters. You never get too settled and are always wanting to find out more. Kirk does a great job keeping the reader engaged and interested throughout the book while we are trying to understand just what is happening to the characters as well as to us the readers.

We all have a darkness. Not just the serial killers or the criminally insane paranoid schizophrenics.
All of us. Even the doctors and helpers. It's whether or not we choose to accept the inner darkness and how we go about our lives making sure it doesn't win that ultimately defines who we are.

4 stars and I am highly looking forward to more from Brian Kirk!
Profile Image for Frank Errington.
738 reviews56 followers
July 8, 2015
Review copy

This is the first published novel for Brian Kirk, the father of twin boys, who makes his home in Atlanta, Ga.

From the 1st page of We Are Monsters...

"The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He's the hospital's newest, and most notorious, patient--a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity's dark side.

Luckily he's in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenic, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don't have fangs or claws.
They look just like you or me."

I always make notes as I read and three-fifths of the way through We Are Monsters I commented that I kept waiting for this book to take flight, but it never seemed to get off the ground Well-written, but I would have liked it to have been so much more.

To that point, the book seemed more like a treatise on the care and treatment of the mentally ill in a modern day asylum than a horror story, but I will admit, once the horror is finally unleashed the action is fast and furious. At times surreal, the payoff was definitely worth the wait.

From Samhain Horror, We Are Monsters is available now in both paperback and e-book formats.

Recommended for the patient horror fan.
Profile Image for Keely.
95 reviews9 followers
January 4, 2020
The Sugar Hill psychiatric hospital in Georgia is home to some exceptionally violent individuals. The media is in a frenzy over the recent admittance of Crosby Nelson, better known as The Apocalypse Killer, as he is deemed “unfit to stand trial”. Rest assured, Crosby, a paranoid schizophrenic, is in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert and Alex Drexler will be presiding over his care and rehabilitation during his stay. While Dr. Alpert, the Chief Medical Director at Sugar Hill has an empathetic, humanistic approach to treating mental illness, his protégé, Dr. Drexler has been leaning more towards the Big Pharma pill pushing philosophy. Without Eli’s knowledge, Alex has been working on a secret (kind of) formula in attempt to cure schizophrenic delusions once and for all. Naturally, as with any “secret formula” in fiction, what Alex’s new drug unleashes is of reality bending proportions.
“The absence of the filter allowed Jerry to see beyond the veil of reality. A stark look into the raw chaos of the cosmos where life operates on a subatomic scale, a swirling soup of photons coalescing into the image of expectations. An indifferent energy field of infinite possibilities made material through the force of the collective unconscious.”
Brian Kirk, you are speaking directly to my nerdy black soul!
This novel was incredibly hard to put down! While I was a little skeptical of the trope at first, horror in a mental facility, there were such heavy considerations of what it means to be “sane” or human for that matter, that I got over it really quickly. This novel didn’t even come close to as campy as I expected it to be and I was blown away. The difference between the views of patient care between Eli and Alex were so completely different that it was curious how they were ever able to agree on anything. However, the development and back story of every main character in this book was so thorough, you were able to see how they arrived at their individual views pertaining to their respective fields.
I am probably a little biased but, I have stated before what a huge fan I am of scientific detail in horror. For me, it makes the story feel far more real even if the subject clearly is not. There is enough of this detail to excite someone like myself but, not enough to prevent anyone that does not care for scientific jargon from picking it up. Kirk did his homework and put an incredible amount of effort into these characters making them feel as if these could have been real people. Especially considering the real stigma that unfortunately surrounds mental illness, he does an extraordinary job of using his characters to illustrate the struggle between do we cater to the soul or the symptoms?
Don’t get me wrong, this novel isn’t an overview of politics surrounding this topic wrapped up in a beautiful little horror bow, it gets creepy as hell! This is the kind of horror that I enjoy the most; where the monsters could be anyone and most of the time, you cannot decide which one is worse.
“There were clusters of people – whom he now saw as electrons – orbiting around a binding force – a nucleus. There were rogue molecules darting from place to place but never attaching themselves to any single orbit, much like free radicals. And he imagined that if this scene were to be viewed from a great enough distance, it would look very much like our own microbiology seen through a microscope.”
Brilliant, right?! I seriously think that if Kirk had figured out a way to work Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle into the novel without confusing the shit out of everyone else, I would have declared this my favorite read of the year already.
Profile Image for Brian Keene.
Author 307 books2,609 followers
October 8, 2015
WE ARE MONSTERS is fantastic -- a frightening and intense thriller and one hell of a debut novel. I was blown away.
January 28, 2020
This book was originally written in 2015 and it was a very ambitious undertaking for a first novel. I think Kirk did a good job weaving a complex tale of medical treatment, mental illness and sanity which for me worked at times and during other times, confused me.

The novel is divided into three different sections. The first two focuses on character development and a look into the medical workings of an asylum and into the complex and controversial world of mental health treatment. Dr. Adam Drexler has been working for years to develop a cure for schizophrenia. His funding and experimental sources have run dry, so he takes a chance and experiments on his own brother. Dr. Eli Alpert runs the Sugar Hill Asylum and believes that treatment should focus more on the strengths of the people suffering from the disorders he treats rather than numb them and their actions through medication. As expected, the two eventually clash. Dr. Drexler dethrones Dr. Alpert but will his experiment on the infamous Apocalypse Killer bring him success or be his downfall.

I actually found this book fairly enjoyable. I never really liked the characters, but even that worked for me where it usually doesn't. I don't know that Kirk was really trying to make any of the characters endearing. Instead, he paints a vivid portrait of sanity vs. insanity. The novel was progressing rather nicely until I reached the third part. That's when all hell broke loose and I started to question what exactly I was reading. During this part I found myself somewhat confused.

I also have to mention that there is a rather sudden animal death in the early stages of the book. Dr. Drexler runs over his wife's precious dog Popeye coming home for work one night. While I felt he was a tad inconsiderate and heartless during the situation, my opinion of him was solidified when he then brought his wife and brother Popeye's takeout a few days later. Just saying...

Plenty of people like books featuring asylums and tackling mental health issues so I can see a lot of people who love horror giving this book a whirl. Kirk's take on the setting and issues definitely showed the scary side of treatment and did manage to humanize people other's often consider "monsters" and actually showed that there are "monsters" on both sides of the treatment.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,393 reviews439 followers
August 12, 2019
This book was judged by the cover. I admit it, the superficial appeal has it’s…well, appeal. I liked the cover and the title, Flame Tree Press might be new, but they’ve so far been pretty consistent quality wise, so I figured I’ll check it out. Turned out, it didn’t quite work for me, much like the last Flame Tree book I’ve read. The thing is, the quality was still there, it was more along the lines of reader/writer incompatibility. The story is interesting enough, actually, and you can’t beat an insane asylum as a fictional setting, but somehow this story just didn’t grab me. I waited and waited, but eventually decided to just settle for being reasonably entertained without any sort of emotional engagement. That worked actually, the book even went by faster. Not every story makes a personal connection, sometimes a reasonably fun diversion will do. The plot has to do with an experimental treatment that supposedly quiets the most disquiet of minds, but in fact unleashes a world of nightmares from the darkest nooks and crannies of one’s psyche. It’s essentially an original take on the inmates taking over the asylum scenario. And it is indeed original, the plot (and the asylum) descends into madness quite thoroughly and terrifyingly in a disturbingly singular manner. I appreciated the story on an intellectual level about as much as I failed to connect with it emotionally. The characters and their respective redemption stories were supposed to be what established the emotional connection, but they just didn’t do it for me, well developed, dimensional to an extent, but not very interesting or likeable or compelling. So that just left the plot, which carried the weight perfectly fine on its own, even as it pivoted from a (let’s say) normal time act to the hallucinatory violent second act. Genre fans should find a lot to enjoy here, it’s dark and brutal and demented. It’s an all around very competently done and strikingly imagined book I ended up respecting more than liking. That’s terrible for a date, but completely ok (though far from optimal) for a reading experience. Your mileage may vary. I was after all nominated for Bram Stoker's award.Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for Jon Recluse.
381 reviews244 followers
September 9, 2019
Dr. Emil Alpert runs the Sugar Hill mental asylum with compassion and humanity, treating his patients with understanding rather than drugging them into catatonic submission.
However, his protégé, Dr. Alex Drexler views treatment of the mentally ill differently, secretly testing a new experimental drug that he believes can cure schizophrenia. Driven beyond his means and his better judgement, he seeks fame and fortune at any cost.
When the brutal murder of a former patient, seemingly by a member of the hospital staff sets in motion a series of errors that removes Dr. Alpert from his position, Drexler is given his chance to prove his drug works....by testing it on the asylum's newest and most infamous patient.....Crosby Nelson, the 'Apocalypse Killer'.
Allowing his ambitions to override his common sense, Drexler agrees.....and discovers his drug does something he never planned for...
Crosby Nelson's inner demons have broken loose in the halls of Sugar Hill, and no one is safe.

Because the demons that haunt the Apocalypse Killer are many, and they won't be denied.

An interesting novel that balances between a hard look at how society treats the mentally ill and a straight out horror thriller.

I received a copy of this novel from Netgalley and Flame Tree Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,728 reviews738 followers
July 24, 2021
I was a little bit disappointed by this one if I’m being completely honest. On paper the idea sounds absolutely amazing, I mean who doesn’t love a good asylum horror with some supernatural elements thrown in? I know this girl was almost drooling at the idea! It’s an incredibly original concept and a lot of research must have gone into it considering the subject matter and I definitely applaud that. I really loved the idea of the story too, potentially curing schizophrenia with some unwanted side effects is just a recipe for a fantastic story. But here’s where it lost me, our protagonist Doctor Alex Drexler. Right from the beginning I had an instant dislike for him after one off putting event and it only grew stronger as the story moved along. It got to a point where it started completely spoiling my enjoyment of the book and I really wish he had been written differently. I honestly think if it hadn’t of been for him that this would have been a full five star read.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,675 reviews917 followers
December 26, 2019
Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

Eh. I tried to get into this. I gave up halfway through and just grudgingly finished this thing over a period of like four weeks. Bah. It had a great premise, it just got boring to me halfway through. And then I kept finding other books to read instead. Maybe if I hadn't started King's "The Institute" (nope still not done) and seen some similar themes here, it would have grabbed me. Honestly it reminds me a lot of La Valle's "The Devil in Silver" with too many themes going on to settle on just one main thread.

"We Are Monsters" follows a a troubled psychiatrist Dr. Alex Drexler who starts to do experimental trails on the criminally insane at the asylum he works at. This ties into a serial killer who just arrives, Crosby Nelson, and of course bad consequences emerge. I didn't really like anyone in this because any doctor with a God complex is always going to start some shit. Honestly parts of this book reminds me a bit of old school Koontz with his whole debate about science moving faster than humanity and the consequences that emerge.

There are other characters in this book, Dr. Eli Alpert, Angela, of course Dr. Drexler and Crosby (woo boy that name). I just didn't care after a while what was going on with anyone though.

The writing was stilted after a while and some of the sentences made me scratch my head. Since this was an ARC, maybe the final version gets more polished. The flow just gets dragged down after a while too. I maybe went okay then, can we please move on like a dozen times.

The book definitely reads like a Southern Gothic novel I have to say. It's usually one of my fav genres. I just got bored and didn't feel wholly engaged by the time we get to the ending.
Profile Image for Kirsty ❤️.
918 reviews44 followers
January 10, 2020
I really enjoyed this debut psychological horror. I looked at the reviews beforehand it they seem quite polarised. You never quite know what to expect when that happens but I’m erring on the positive side. It’s a book of two parts with the first setting the scene of Alex testing his untried miracle cure for schizophrenia on first his brother and then a crazy serial killer. However the serum allows the patient to create new worlds which are transferred onto others. It’s a thought provoking piece and complicated in some areas complicated (and if you’ve read any of my reviews before I’m no good with science) but I followed enough to be creeped out with what was happening. People need to accept pasts, reconcile themselves with their less than desirable personality traits and so on. It all gets very crazy so fitting it’s set in a mental health facility.

My one fault is there wasn’t enough of the POV from the serial killer. I felt his story was covered and resolved a bit too quickly but that’s a small bug bear as I enjoyed the rest of it. A good debut and looking forward to what the author does next
Profile Image for Elke.
1,320 reviews39 followers
March 16, 2020
I love stories that show humans as the real monsters, whether there are also some supernatural monsters included or not. This book features only the human kind, but that's more than enough to create a horrific story about all degrees of madness, with an asylum as the perfect setting to accompany the nightmarish atmosphere.

When it comes to psychological horror I am usually guarded. Hallucinatory visions, dreamlike episodes, or anything that makes it hard to distinguish between hard reality and an imaginary world irritate me. I don't like not being able to distinguish between what is real and what not. And that's even more so if there is no revelatory ending to make things clear - which sometimes leaves me wondering if the author just wanted to create a creepy atmosphere without backing it up with a decent plot. However, reading 'We Are Monsters' never left me guessing, or at least for long, what was going on and, more importantly: why. The author intelligibly explained what happened and the probable reasons behind it, be it medical stuff or the insightful guesswork of the protagonists. I never felt like missing some important clue necessary to reveal a hidden truth, and I really appreciated that, as I could really focus on the plot without searching for an explanation that may or may not have been there. The main characters all had their flaws, but that didn't make them likable antiheroes, and therefore I did not care for them as much as I did for some of the secondary characters and the action itself, which I really enjoyed.
Profile Image for Amber.
986 reviews
November 28, 2019
I received a complimentary copy of this e-book ARC from the author, publisher, and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dr. Alex Drexler is determined to be rich by his new medication that would cure patients of their schizophrenia at a mental hospital. When his experiments with the medication failed and he is sent to face his inner demons with several others, will they survive or go mad? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good, creepy, and twisted horror novel. If you like stories about mad doctor and horror, be sure to check this book out when it officially releases to bookstores and wherever books are sold on January 16,2020.
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