Book Review

Cymera 2- Discussion Post: Monsters

Eris Young asked Lesley Glaister and Alexandra Christo, ‘what makes a creature or monster?’

That question took me a bit off guard, I mean we could all give the obvious answers about physiology but Eris obviously was digging deeper than that as both characters aren’t strictly/particularly human in either book the authors were discussing. I would also like to add that Eris had a fantastic dress, I loved it, and really such a great interview, the questions were always spot on!

Alexandra looked at the question from a nature vs. nurture point of view. She asks if not being human doesn’t make us a monster, then ‘what is it? Something deeper?’ To paraphrase her, Alexandra believes it’s actions that define us.

Lesley took a look at themes, what’s a human, an animal, or in between according to mythology and what’s a hierarchy of those all? She deems there is a lot of gray area and it’s within that, that you’ll find her answer.

In both their respective novels, Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom and Glaister’s Aphra’s Child, there are some common themes, they both have a hierarchy but in Christo’s, the Sirens are at the top in their underwater world, while humans are on equal footing in their respect on land. Glaister’s, it’s clear the humans are in charge but they’re infiltrators and the creatures are vast and varied.

When looking at what makes a monster, corruption and power play large parts, do these things make us less human? And Christo points out something interesting, for us the compassion the things that make us all good are labeled to correlate directly to us, humans, it’s humanity that makes us different.

But why is that the term? And if something’s not human that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t capable of compassion or goodness, or ‘humanity.’

One thing is clear about both novels aside from creatures and hierarchies, it’s that there’s the theme of hidden nature, that no matter creature or human, you are capable of being a monster or a shining example of humanity.

So I’d love to hear from you all! What do you think makes a monster? Is it simply the physiology, is it more, is it something that can’t be put into words but by actions alone?

In my opinion I tend to agree with Christo in that it is our actions that define us, I think a lack of compassion and empathy/sympathy are clear indicators for beginning of something that doesn’t equal our ideals of humanity, and I agree with Glaister, there’s such a vast spectrum of gray.


By TheCaffeinatedReader

A Caffeinated Reader and Musician, destined to write lacklustre book reviews with the over-ample amount of free time.

5 replies on “Cymera 2- Discussion Post: Monsters”

Ohhhh this was a great post, it read like I was reading a novel !

I’ll agree with them aswell. As human, we are neither all good or all bad – we can be defined by our actions .. as we have a conscience and empathy and “humanity”, as they said; so a monster would have none of that. A monster to me would do bad just for fun and it’s own pleasure, or because it’s corrupted and need said power over the world.

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honestly the first thing that came to mind was “when is a monster not a monster? oh, when you love it” – and I’m not sure if that’s from poetry or tumblr or fanfiction, but I think the question of perspective is an interesting one. just as “villain” and “hero” can be considered relative terms, I think “monster” tends to be used relative to “human” (or generally accepted societal values, like not murdering / maiming people).

Frankenstein’s monster is the example off the top of my head, which is interesting because iirc he’s considered a monster even before he starts killing people and making demands of his creator – he’s considered a monster because he’s unnatural, cobbled together and brought to life. I read the book for class so we had an extensive discussion of how much blame he should get for turning out as he did – ie, rejection by humans made him cruel, though at the same time he kind of *chose* to retaliate with murder instead of turning the other cheek, looking for somewhere he could live in peace alone.

it’s an interesting question, and it sounds like the interview was a great discussion! thanks for sharing, Haley.


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