One ordinary day, an enormous creature dragged itself out of the ocean and laid waste to a city. In the months and years that followed, more and more creatures appeared until not a single country remained untouched. At first, people tried to fight them. In the end, all they could do was try and stay alive.
We Call It Monster is a story of forces beyond our control, and of immense and impossible creatures that make plain how small we really are. It is the story of our fight for survival and our discovery of that which truly matters: community and compassion, love and family, hope and faith.
A story-cycle/novel-in-stories, We Call It Monster is written in a grounded and realistic way, with each chapter unfolding from the perspective of a different character, and detailing his or her first-hand experience of the conflict between humans and monsters.
The old man shuffled out to the balcony, dusted off an outdoor chair and then made himself comfortable. The sky was a shade of blue that painters only dream about; it was a beautiful sight. The old man drank it in, leaning back in his chair. He sipped at his coffee and smoked a cigarette. He was happy to wait as long as was necessary – he had all the time in the world and he wasn’t going anywhere.
The monster finally appeared, a blurry smudge in the distance.
Slowly, but not as slowly as he would have thought, it grew both closer and more distinct. The old man laughed out loud; it looked like nothing more than a child’s drawing of something that might have been a lobster or might have been a spider or might have been both, propped up on flagpole-like legs that supported a wetly-shining carapace, a beaked head, and a tail as long as a bus.
It was enormous and ridiculous in equal measure. The old man was surprised to find that it failed to frighten him.
It drew closer to the city. It stopped suddenly and bit a great chunk out of a stately old tree lining a boulevard. Chewing slowly and methodically, it worked its way through the mass of wood and foliage before throwing its head back and opening its mouth wide. Despite his deafness, the old man felt the monster’s keening in his bones and in the pit of his stomach.
He pulled his hearing aid from his pocket, turned it on then slipped it in place.
The beast’s cry was low and mournful, more a melancholy bellow than a ferocious roar. Thankfully, the klaxon-blare of the evacuation alarms had stopped. The monster cried out again and it shook the old man, both literally and metaphorically. The beast shifted its legs, presumably adjusting its weight, and destroyed an office building in the process.
Almost comically, it looked down at the destruction it had wrought and seemed to shake its head.
It looked back up and cried out a third time, and then started walking again. It seemed to meet the old man’s eye. Without breaking its gaze, the old man took another sip of coffee before lighting another cigarette.
Slowly-slowly-slowly, the monster drew closer. You could almost see a smile on the old man’s face.
What People Are Saying
We Call It Monster reimagines formulaic kaiju fiction with unexpected focus on the human experience – Walter experiments with the genre by disregarding Godzilla-type clichés of over-the-top military assaults, monstrous battles and human superiority. Instead, he presents a short story cycle with each chapter focusing on a new protagonist. The strength of this approach is in diversity—Walter provides a representative collection of characters… We Call It Monster also considers the vulnerability of humanity to forces beyond its control. Terror is derived not only from the monsters, but from the inadequacy and helplessness of society in general. Individuals become the ‘heroes’ of the story, not for fighting or defeating monsters, but for retaining their humanity… This, along with a believable sprinkling of Australian colloquialisms, produces a distinctive tone. We Call It Monster is a unique take on giant monsters that will absorb readers.
There are giant monsters in this book, but they’re peripheral at best – the author has an agenda above and beyond most monster novels. Along with global destruction, he’s telling a story about love and loneliness and commitment and survival. For him, the kaiju are the catalyst for poetry. Good on him.
Monster is not really a novel and not really a book of short stories, but something in between. And this is how this strange hybrid book succeeds. If we consider it a novel, the protagonist is the whole human race, and its story spans the book. If we look at the work as a set of short stories, then each one delineates a character and that person’s reaction to disaster as it approaches and engulfs his or her life… Each tale is individualistic, creative and self contained, yet meshing with the tone of the total work to keep us involved and wanting to read on… A sensitive portrayal of the human race in adversity. Highly recommended for…just about everyone.
The story discusses tribal life, cultures and survival instincts, and takes upon explaining basic things that we, today, genuinely do not appreciate in our day to day life. This made the story special as it enabled the ability to truly feel how one would think if they lost all they had… The literature was descriptive and included a substantial amount of setting and emotional detail, which made the story intense and intriguing.
We Call It Monster is firmly embedded in the kaiju tradition—giant creatures battling humanity and each other, crawling out of deep places and into sunlight. They’re fascinating to read about, these monsters… This is world-changing stuff, world-destroying stuff, and there comes a point when you think we really have it coming. And I love that what exists alongside this hideous balancing of scales is those who are not monsters at all. I find this take on the end of the world deeply refreshing. Why? Because Walter’s characters are decent people. The communities these individuals hold on to and construct, the society they make in the midst of ruin, are ones of decent people doing the best they can to help each other survive. People are kind to each other. They navigate disaster, the end of all things, with the best possible grace they can manage… We Call It Monster, says Walter. There’s recognition in the calling.
A well-written and beautifully presented monster story which gives a great apocalyptic high to genre lovers like myself… The hero of the book is the story itself, and the way the monsters and the different characters play a huge part in the story progression and in giving an idea to the reader about how the world collapses and how people try to cope with the downfall of society when threatened by something that is not only incomprehensible but also ostensibly impossible… It kept me engrossed in the story, right till the very end. If you love reading about monsters, or if you love reading books set right in the middle of the apocalypse, you can’t afford to miss this book!
The most humane monster book I have read, showing us that the existence of monsters can make humans behave more humane than they generally do – unlike its title and cover, in the book the monsters are not in the spotlight… I loved how varied the characters were: Their personalities, their stories came off as quite strong. With monsters roaming around survival is everyone’s first instinct, but this book had a lot of emotion in it. Most dystopian novels overlook that… If you like Godzilla, Jurassic Park and monstrous things, then this book is for you. But even if you don’t, We Call It Monster will keep you engaged.
We Call It Monster gets you jittery with excitement from the start… The author examines humanity’s will to survive after a great catastrophe takes place: People are people, there is still love and friendship and things about the world to enjoy even with everything that has changed. It’s not always about action and people running away screaming for their lives whenever monsters show up – sometimes it’s about survival!
If you enjoy watching Godzilla and other Kaiju science fiction/horror films, then add We Call It Monster to your TBR pile – this monsterlicious book will fit the bill.
By far one of the most original and “human” stories set in a world filled with larger-than life-monsters, bringing the large-scale destruction of a Godzilla or King Kong-style film and blending it in with the character development and connectivity of a film like Crash, and focusing not on the monster’s origins or larger than life battles, but instead the relationships and struggles of those affected by these events… The emotional impact of these creatures’ destruction and the slow decline the planet faces brings a new focus on the monster genre, and creates a truly impactful story like no other… A true must read novel of 2019, author Lachlan Walter has exceeded the expectations of the genre and created a narrative that is truly original. Exploring the affects the monsters have on our society and the people left behind in their wake, the heart of this novel rests in it’s fantastic character development, and will leave readers on the edge of their seat as they witness the slow ride into the end of the world as we know it.
A character-driven collection of short stories that focuses on people as they go about surviving, the author does a marvelous job of introducing them and developing them enough that a reader can have compassion for their plight… I found that from the very first pages of the book, I was hooked. It was truly a pleasure to look into the lives of the very well written characters and I was never disappointed all the way through – Walter led me through the entire spectrum of emotional involvement with his storytelling… I recommend We Call It Monster to readers that enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and for those that just enjoy a good story. I would even go as far as to say that one need not be a science fiction fan to enjoy this story of human compassion and the will to survive the most impossible threats.
A Short Q&A with the Author
What is it about giant monsters that appeals to you?
Initially, it was a childish fascination with things being smashed. Let’s face it: Every little kid has thrown a tantrum for reasons they can’t explain, broken something and then experienced relief at the wordless release this brings. A giant monster barging through a city for no fathomable reason can reflect our own difficulties in articulating and making sense of our emotions at that age.
This fascination soon turned to awe and wonder at their scale and mystery, a reflection of the feelings inspired in me by my discovery of dinosaurs and cryptozoology (the study of creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yetis and the like). My love of dinosaurs is easy to explain – show me a kid who hasn’t at some point gone through a ‘dinosaur’ phase’ and I’ll eat my hat – while my love of cryptozoology was inspired by a book entitled Creatures From Elsewhere, which my parents gave me and which is actually still sitting on my bookshelf.
Beginning in my teenage years and continuing on into the present day, I’ve loved the metaphorical and symbolic potential that giant monsters possess, and the ways in which they can ‘stand in’ for so many different problems that seem beyond our control and almost impossible to deal with. Nuclear war, our negative impact on the environment, international terrorism, industrial pollution, climate change, the staggering number of displaced people around the world – giant monsters have represented them all.
Why did you decide to write about giant monsters?
As mentioned, I’ve always been fascinated by them. But I’ve also always been a voracious reader, and sometimes an obsessive one. I’ve been known to occasionally get my nerd on for a particular sub or micro-genre, looking up ‘similar title’ and ‘you might also like’ lists online when I should be doing better things with my time. But I still keep searching, because there can’t just be one example of Mystery Sub/Micro-genre X out there.
Giant monster fiction was one such obsession that carried me away, the timing of which coincided with the completion of my first book. I binged on literally anything I could find, looking for something that took giant monsters as seriously as some of the movies do, something that was more than just capital-A action. I found lots of fun, post-modern stuff out there – some of which could even be described as zany – but not much that approached giant monsters with a serious eye.
Looking for a new book to throw myself into writing – a book that I wanted to be distinctly different from my first book – I decided upon a piece of serious giant monster fiction. In other words, I decided to write the book that I wanted to read. Isn’t that what an author does?
Do you need to be a fan of giant monsters to appreciate We Call It Monster?
Nope, but it probably helps… In all seriousness, though – no, you don’t need to be a fan. My aim with We Call It Monster wasn’t only to write a serious piece of giant monster fiction because giant monsters have, historically, rarely been written about in such a way. Instead, I also wanted to write a piece of speculative fiction that does what all good speculative fiction should: Use the speculative element within to make us look at ourselves and our place in the world with fresh eyes.
Despite its title, We Call It Monster is more concerned with people than monsters. It isn’t a ‘wham-bam, shoot-em-up’ but instead a serious look at how we might react to forces beyond our control, and to forces that illuminate the precariousness of our position as world-conquerors sitting atop the food chain. And ultimately, it’s the story of what really matters: community and compassion, love and family and friendship, hope and faith. Anyone that appreciates such people-centric stories should find something within We Call It Monster that they can enjoy.
Why did you decide to write We Call It Monster as a story-cycle/novel-in-stories?
I was a reader before I was a writer, and one of reading’s biggest attractions to me has always been in my sense of engagement with the world being built on the page before me (a process even more absorbing when reading science fiction and speculative fiction). I think this enjoyment of engagement applies to most people. We all ‘see’ things in written worlds that the author didn’t actually write, even at the most mundane level: we populate a footpath with pedestrians, a street with cars.
A story-cycle/novel-in-stories can increase this sense of engagement to an incredibly strong degree, and their traditional structures allow writers to work magic. They can give us different perspectives on the same events, blocks of ‘missing time’ that exist between stories/chapters, events that are only alluded to rather than seen first-hand, a multiplicity of narrative “voices”, and so much more. But ‘missing time’ begs to be filled; events only alluded to tantalise us; we can’t know the truth when presented with different perspectives, or even if the truth exists. And so our minds do this work for us, conjuring up and giving life to parts of the story the writer has withheld.
The way story-cycles/novels-in-stories allow us to create the world right alongside the writer is a beautiful thing. However, the structures behind them aren’t just beautiful, but also incredibly practical. They can allow a story to cover a span of time longer than a regular person’s life; and help do away with the inevitable and repetitive ‘amazing coincidences’ that prop-up stories where one single character guides us through an incredible sequence of events covering an incredible amount of time; and enable a wider representation of voices from a wider variety of countries and cultures, without also falling back on the aforementioned trope of inevitable and repetitive ‘amazing coincidences’.