Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel by S.G. Browne
Genre: Fiction, short stories, zombies, luck, humor, science fiction, make all of them books
Rating: 4.23 out of 5 stars
Summary: Sentient zombies, luck poachers, personality supplements, sex robots, word dealers, personifications of sin, and super heroes. This eBook only collection of short stories from S.G. Browne is full of amazing ideas and fun characters that you could not dream up if you wanted to… Or you had a drug dealer who specialized in words. Satire, humor, science fiction, this collection has everything.
Over the last few years I have seen the rise of eBook only short story collections. Smart, smart, smart. No overhead costs, just digital files AND because of this you can offer it to your customers on the cheap. $3.99 for an amazing collection of short stories, how do you go wrong with that? Answer: you can’t. Whereas a consumer might waffle between buying a new book for $10 to $15, it’s hard to pass up one going for $4.
Unlike with most short story posts where I merely talk about the stories I liked and didn’t like, in this post, I will be discussing EVERY SINGLE short story, ten in all. While yes, I did like some more than others (“My Ego is Bigger Than Yours” won my vote for best and “Zombie Gigolo” got my vote for least), I enjoyed every single story in this collection in its own way. I have been reading S.G. Browne since his first published novel (hipster cred?) when I bought Breathers in 2009 and so far this man has done no wrong.
The collection opens with “A Zombie’s Lament” the short story which would later become Browne’s first published novel Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament. The tale follows a zombie who after returning to the world of the living finds himself on the fringes of society. His social security number is taken from him, he has no legal rights as one of the undead, and even his own family is disturbed by his presence. The work previously appeared in Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead edited by John Skipp and promotion time, we were just sent four books from the new publishing company Ravenous Shadows to review, which John Skipp is Editor in Chief of. Coincidence or fate?
“Softland” continues with the trend of short stories that later became books this tale becoming Browne’s newest full length novel, Lucky Bastard OUT THIS TUESDAY! The short follows a family of luck poachers who steal luck from others. Luck comes in different forms, good and bad, soft to hard, and having the ability to take luck from someone is a hereditary trait. While stealing luck pays well, it doesn’t necessarily give you the best social life, forcing the poacher to move from place to place to not draw attention to oneself. You can read my full review of the ARC I received HERE.
My absolute favorite story in this collection is “My Ego is Bigger Than Yours”. It is- presumably- set in a future where people are able to buy a drug which replicates someone’s personality, called Egos. Sold for 10K if you want the ego of a celebrity (dead only to prevent confusion and fraud) or 15K if you want designer personalities for fictional characters like James Bond or Luke Skywalker. The premise is spectacular, and allows you to witness things like Hemingway and Faulkner fighting inside a cafe. Even better, Browne is working on crafting it into a novel called Big Egos. YAY!
Another spectacular story, “Dream Girls”is part science fiction and part fantasy with a morbid twist. In this world, there is a technology on the market called Dream Girls, which is a robot alien hybrid that can take the form of any woman the owner thinks of. Think morphing sex doll. Due to the invention of these, marriage rates have declined, Marilyn Monroe was murdered and Kennedy assassinated. As expected, Dream Boys didn’t work out as well because women want companionship versus random sexual encounters, but at least Catholic Priests are better off.
In “Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel” (this one’s amazing too!!!) a writer is suffering from a case of writer’s block when he meets a drug dealer who traffics words. Empty looking Ziploc bags full of words. They come in adjectives, cliches, you name it, and each set of words has its own unique smell. After inhaling the bag it temporarily cures writer’s block, but that doesn’t mean what you write is going to be any good. Fun, witty, AND implausible. All my favorite things in one neat little bundle.
“Captivity” is the shortest story of the short stories and is from the point of view of a shampoo bottle. It’s also very dark, graphic, and sad. Very very sad. So sad it will make you hope your shampoo isn’t sentient. PLEASE DON’T HAVE FEELINGS SHAMPOO!
This offshoot of his second published novel Fated, “The Sodom and Gomorrah Shore” is centered around the characters of Sloth and Gluttony and written in script format. Basically, it revolves around the personification of the seven deadly sins if they had their own reality show at the biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lots of fantasy and imagination stretching in this one. Browne even brings in Lot and his wife if you’re into biblical things and don’t think everything is blasphemous.
“Homer’s Reprise” is the only story not written in the third person and follows Odysseus. It’s also set in the future when Cerberus, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster are stuffed and on display in museums. Also Odysseus is immortal and in charge of protecting the beasts of the world. I’m not completely as good as I once was with my Greek mythology, so not 100% sure where it came from, but I like the concept. It also gives us insight into Browne’s writing process, and he tells us, “I’m a pantser. I write the same way Indiana Jones deal with Nazis and stolen artifacts: I’m making it up as I go.”
In another story bound for bookdom, AKA “Dr. Lullaby” a group of men who test prescription medicine before it goes public get super powers. These super powers, are side-effect related, i.e. may cause weight gain, drowsiness, and vomiting and the men who get them use their new found prowess for good. The main character also makes extra cash by allowing people to yell their frustrations at him. If I had a tougher skin it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Finally, there is “Zombie Gigolo” which was written for a gross out contest. It’s incredibly gross, almost too gross, probably due to the plot which centers around a zombie gigolo. He is himself a zombie and there’s lots of descriptive… Juiciness. Getting nauseous just thinking about it.
-Fantasy, science fiction, and undefinable, each story was original and fun
-S.G. Browne creates worlds that I want to live in, especially ego based ones
-All the stories I loved and wanted more of are being made into novels!
-Interweaves fictional stories with factual events (and sometimes other fictions)
-Loved hearing the ideas behind the stories and a look into the writing process
-“Zombie Gigolo” was gross, yes, that was the intention, but blech
-I feel bad for using my shampoo =(
Now, thanks to this short story collection, I have not one but two upcoming novels to look forward to from S.G. Browne. The literary world is often quiet about their writing plans, and it’s nice to hear something ahead of time straight from the author himself. Now if only he would come to the east coast for a book signing.