The Monsters in Your Neighborhood
“. . . an intriguing plea for tolerance presented as an entertaining read . . .”
The characters introduced in Club Monstrosity—Natalie the Frankenstein creation, lycanthrope Alec, Drake the vampire, Linda the swamp creature, and Kai and Rehu, the mummy couple—are now preparing for war.
Each member has received a handwritten message, on “thick, creamy paper” with “an embossed VH at the top of the sheet” on which is written a single word . . . “War.”
With no hope of truce, they gather to form a viable battle plan. Some want to simply hide. Natalie reminds them hiding would destroy the “normal’ lives they’ve struggled to build. Her suggestion is to learn from past mistakes.
“This time we go guerilla-style. We can’t exactly start battling in Times Square, after all.”
Alec, her werewolf boyfriend, as flippant as ever if more of a realist, has a comeback for that.
“In Times Square, the humans would be taking pictures of us, or totally ignoring us. They’d probably think it was some show advertisement.”
Imagine everyone’s shock when exactly that happens. At a college study session, Alec is shown a laptop video, “a YouTube video that already had over a million hits. Its title? Real Monster Attack in New York City.”
As with the previous entry in this series, author Petersen lets us see the human side of monsters and how those who may be look the most horrendous aren’t really so very different from those of us who aren’t.
The tunnel-visioned Van Helsings are definitely the villains of the piece.
Like most hate-mongers they realize they need public opinion on their side, and their uses of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype as propaganda against their prey is a neat concept. The viral video turns the public against the monsters. Now they’ve raised the threat a notch by taking to Twitter. “#realmonstersNYC and the video are wildly popular.”
This could actually be seen as a metaphor for another era of persecution, when the media was used to propel one people against another whose ways of life were different.
“Layer by layer, we are building our weapons against you: the people and their terror, their hate.”
When Alec vanishes, only to reappear with no memory of his lost hours, and later is shown on TV in a video, the Van Helsings, like the terrorist group they are, again claim responsibility.
In a confrontation, a Van Helsing grandson explains to Alec,
“. . . you were taken, rendered unconscious, and a surgery was performed . . . A chip was implanted in your brain . . . that, when activated . . . allows the one with the trigger to control your actions…”
This is the common fear of many people—not having power over one’s own actions, of being controlled by someone or something stronger over-running another’s will. In childhood, humans are controlled by adults; in adulthood, they are controlled by laws and public opinion. In a monster, generally under another’s power to start with, this fear would be even greater. The Van Helsings capitalize on that to force the creatures to betray themselves.
The ultimate showdown is about to begin: monsters versus monster-killers and monsters versus the traitors among themselves. Only a double-double cross will save the day and if it doesn’t work, the last few remaining monsters, even those struggling to survive peacefully with Man, may disappear from the face of the Earth. . . .
Alec’s quips and comebacks keep the tone from being too serious while his and Natalie’s love affair, as well as that of Rehu and Kai, are bright spots among the danger in which they currently reside.
Selected by the Van Helsings as the weapon of his fellow monsters’ destruction, Alec is one of the few voices of reason throughout. Like a true hero, he refuses to give in to the threat to his own life, displaying a sense of loyalty not even the generations of monster hunters can claim.
“We’re in this together. Whether we like each other or not, that’s what our group has been about. We have a common bond and I’ll protect that any way I can.”
Thereby hangs this tale of centuries-old fear, asking who’s the more noble . . . the one who refuses to betray a group even if he doesn’t particularly like them, or those willing to kill others simply because of they consider them “imperfect”?
In its fairly lighthearted view of man and monsters, The Monsters in Your Neighborhood offers a surprisingly serious and intriguing plea for tolerance presented as an entertaining read.