Destroy All Monsters

Destroy All Monsters

A crucial, genre-bending tale, equal parts Ned Vizzini and Patrick Ness, about the life-saving power of friendship.Solomon and Ash both experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve.Ash lost all memory of that event when she fell from Solomon’s treehouse. Since then, Solomon has retreated further and further into a world he seems to have created in his own mind. One...

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Title:Destroy All Monsters
Author:Sam J. Miller
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Destroy All Monsters Reviews

  • Dominic

    I'm going to start this review with a "Hell Yeah!" and disclose that I've read nearly everything Miller has written. I'm a huge fan of his work. I'd encourage readers to find his blog to read the many science fiction stories he's written, many of them award-winners, in addition to the now-three novels he's published. Miller's debut novel for teens,

    , is probably my all-time favourite of the genre, and his debut novel for adults,

    , is a gloriously hopeful glimpse

    I'm going to start this review with a "Hell Yeah!" and disclose that I've read nearly everything Miller has written. I'm a huge fan of his work. I'd encourage readers to find his blog to read the many science fiction stories he's written, many of them award-winners, in addition to the now-three novels he's published. Miller's debut novel for teens,

    , is probably my all-time favourite of the genre, and his debut novel for adults,

    , is a gloriously hopeful glimpse at a future dismantled by the destruction of climate change.

    I feel like I have a pretty firm handle on (and appreciation of) the project(s) Miller tackles with his work. His ability to write in these distinct forms—novel, short story, adult, teen—both impresses and delights me since I never feel like I'm reading the same story just repackaged.

    I had high hopes for

    , considering I've been awaiting this novel since January, and I'm entirely satisfied and spent with this latest output. It's original, emotionally stirring, wholly human, and never bleak—even though it covers some heavy topics (which I'm going to avoid talking about for fear of spoilers). If you want to know potential trigger warnings, other reviewers have mentioned those, but so long as a writer is generous with its reader, I tend to simply surrender to the world of the book and be surprised by the world that unfolds here—even when an author or a book ends up gutting me. When I read Miller's earlier work, I felt an undeniable and generous empathy for his characters and a genuine hope for a better world that makes the bleaker moments of the book less crippling. I think you can trust that you are in good hands.

    This newest novel is the story of two friends, Ash and Solomon, and a bond that they share, even while time and a suppressed trauma from the past has caused a crack in their friendship. Ash's narration is grounded in a cold dissatisfaction with a brutal status quo, while Solomon's is untethered to reality. Solomon embodies an "other side" world where people keep dinosaurs and dragons as pets and those with magic powers are persecuted and othered into oblivion. As I happily grappled with Solomon's complex imaginary world and tried to unlock what haunted these two characters, I was brought into a literary vision that also calls for change—a signature of Miller's work. His stories insist that we can be better—in this case, that we aren't our traumas and that we are capable to "destroy our world's monsters" if we can imagine possibilities, create art, lean on one another, and never lose hope in our inherent goodness.

    Sam J. Miller is a modern science fiction writer, and you kinda have to expect an unusual and wild ride, but I guarantee you are getting a full-hearted vision if you choose to read this novel. His work is as visionary as Octavia Butler's but he's also more concerned with human relationships than anyone I've read in the genre so far. I cherish his stories because they use the tropes of science fiction to explore often tough issues of identity and friendship and sexuality and activism.

    Miller's work may appear more akin to Butler in terms of genre, but I would also link his work to that of Audre Lorde and the feminist stance that the personal is political. In "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," Lorde writes:

    When you choose to read a Miller novel, you know you are going to learn something about the power of how individuals try to make the world a better place through creativity, the daring to imagine a better world, and the necessary bonds that must form to bring lasting change. There is definitely a loathing of patriarchal oppression in this novel, and he upholds the daring outsider again and again in his work. It's a stirring joy to watch these characters struggle and vie in order to take down the pillars of patriarchy.

    With

    , you'll enter a YA world that feels both familiar and unforgettable, scary and redemptive. Comparisons to Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series and A.S. King's

    are entirely apt, but given his distinctly science fiction pedigree and background, Miller adds his own flavor to the YA realm. This is still a science fiction novel, yes, but it's imaginative and weird and painful and generous and about very real traumas and failures and

    heroics. It's damn good heart-on-sleeve hand-gripping-armchair writing that makes you feel all sorts of things. So worth the wait.

  • Rebecca Roanhorse

    Laini Taylor meets John Green in this poignant young adult tale of parallel worlds and deep magic where trauma breaks but friendship heals. Miller offers no easy answers for fighting the all-too-real monsters in our lives but still allows space for hope, healing, and above all, bravery.

  • Shaun Hutchinson

    Effing brilliant.

  • Amanda Hanson

    I loved this. It was a fun mix of magic with life, reality with the unreal. Sam J. Miller is so good - the words were beautiful. I’m going to be thinking about this book for a really long time.

    Trigger warning for sexual abuse of children.

  • Sam

    This book had the potential of a five star read, I read the entire thing in one night, so it was at least easy to get into.

    My main (and pretty much only issue) with this book was the dual narrative. I normally love more than one narrator in a book, but in this case I found myself rejoicing when Solomon's chapters were shorter. Ash was the interesting one to me, and it was easy for her chapters to fly by, reading Solomon's segments felt like a chore.

    But I would highly recommend this book to jus

    This book had the potential of a five star read, I read the entire thing in one night, so it was at least easy to get into.

    My main (and pretty much only issue) with this book was the dual narrative. I normally love more than one narrator in a book, but in this case I found myself rejoicing when Solomon's chapters were shorter. Ash was the interesting one to me, and it was easy for her chapters to fly by, reading Solomon's segments felt like a chore.

    But I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone! So if you're considering reading this, my suggestion would be to do so.

  • Giselle

    True rating: 3.5 stars.

    I chose to read this book because of the mention of a Patrick Ness-like style, and this is definitely true. It starts out confusing as heck, but in a good way. The kind of confusing that captivates you, and pulls you in fully with the promise of a very odd, gritty, mysterious book.

    Told in dual POV, we go through this story with two very different angles. One is Ash who is your typical teenage girl who doesn't completely fit in, but who's also not a complete loner. Then the

    True rating: 3.5 stars.

    I chose to read this book because of the mention of a Patrick Ness-like style, and this is definitely true. It starts out confusing as heck, but in a good way. The kind of confusing that captivates you, and pulls you in fully with the promise of a very odd, gritty, mysterious book.

    Told in dual POV, we go through this story with two very different angles. One is Ash who is your typical teenage girl who doesn't completely fit in, but who's also not a complete loner. Then there's Solomon who takes us on a wild ride filled with dinosaurs, monsters, and magic. Which is real, though? Is Solomon just making this all up, or is it Ash who is unable to see the monsters? I found this aspect really enjoyable and fun to try and figure out. I did find that my interest in the bizarre world fizzled out after a while, though. As the story advances and the the mystery unravels, I found myself wanting to skip over Solomon's POV to get to the big reveal.

    It didn't help that the POV switched so often that it was hard to keep track of the going ons of the Darkside and its characters. I felt like I never had time to really immerse myself into that fantasy land before we were snatched away into the real-world of Ash's POV again. This made the story feel very jittery, and I found myself mostly paying attention to Ash's storyline, and getting bored when we were thrown into what had started as an intriguing, dark otherworld.

    There were also parts of the story that made me uncomfortable. Ash has a "friend with benefits" that, while I know does happen at 16, felt out of place for me. No parent batted an eye at a 16yo spending so much time alone in a boy's room for most of the night/evening. I'm not a prude, but it just felt really awkward and unnecessary for the story.

    With all that said, the overall message in this novel is an important one. I appreciated that it had real substance, while keeping its air of mystery and magic throughout. It's an overall dark, gritty story that can never be told enough.

  • Crystal ✬ Lost in Storyland

    Destroy All Monsters is a book that surprised me. Based on the premise, I went in expecting a contemporary novel and received magical realism and a parallel world. I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, the social issues / mental health classifications are relevant given the hate crimes, police brutality and oppressiveness, and Ash’s depression (and Solomon’s something). On the other hand, we’re led to believe that Solomon has schizophrenia but come out with the answer that artists ar

    Destroy All Monsters is a book that surprised me. Based on the premise, I went in expecting a contemporary novel and received magical realism and a parallel world. I have mixed feelings over this. On the one hand, the social issues / mental health classifications are relevant given the hate crimes, police brutality and oppressiveness, and Ash’s depression (and Solomon’s something). On the other hand, we’re led to believe that Solomon has schizophrenia but come out with the answer that artists are able to tap into another, magical realm. Does this result downplay the issue of schizophrenia? I don’t know, but it leaves me with questions.

    At first glance, the novel appears to alternate between the two 1st person POVs of Ash and Solomon. Later, it becomes apparent that there are actually four (more like three) POVs: that of our side Ash and Solomon and that of Darkside Solomon. Because of the number of narrators and the frequent shifting of the POV, I never quite felt like I got to know the characters. The focus of this novel is more on the idea that monsters are made and how they lurk under even the most benign exteriors. How they lurk even in the people we know and trust.

    While events on our side also parallel events in Darkside, the storyline itself isn’t entirely continuous; time will skip when we return to a particular narrator. This can be confusing, and there were POVs that I skimmed because I wanted to get back to another POV. Darkside Solomon and our side Ash were especially concerning to me because (1) they play more of an active role in the story and (2) they make choices that put them in dangerous situations. The mystery of twelve years ago and the present hate crimes kept me turning the pages.

    The mystery of the event that happened twelve years ago threads in and out of the narrative, and it has bearing on the present day. Solomon and Ash have strong negative emotions towards it, which may have something to do with their inability to remember, and it influences how they treat other issues once they recover their memories. That said, the big reveal didn’t feel like a surprise, and once initiated, the resolution moves quickly and straightforwardly to the finish.

    Not everything resolves happily or conclusively, but it’s clear what needs to be done. Some, if not all, characters are clearly moving forward. Others we can only root for—and I was left feeling okay with this because the events of this chapter of the characters’ lives has reached its conclusion. And because the characters’ uncertain future is reflective of real life.

    INITIAL THOUGHTS:

    A really strange read, but it was interesting. The external conflicts are pretty straightforward, no big mystery or twist of events there. The mystery of what happened twelve years ago - and whether this was two or four POVs kept me turning the pages until the end.

    Note: I'm seeing this shelved quite a bit as contemporary, but there are magical elements to this book, plus a parallel world.

  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Q: “Maybe we broke the universe.” (c)

    Q: Some of us are monsters. (c)

    Q: I wanted to save myself, and Ash, and my whole city full of magnificent monsters and magic that they wanted to destroy. (c)

    Q: “Temperature’s dropping tonight, beloveds,” she said. “Better find a good book or a warm body to curl up with by the fire.” (c)

    Q: “Maybe we broke the universe.” (c)

    Q: Some of us are monsters. (c)

    Q: I wanted to save myself, and Ash, and my whole city full of magnificent monsters and magic that they wanted to destroy. (c)

    Q: “Temperature’s dropping tonight, beloveds,” she said. “Better find a good book or a warm body to curl up with by the fire.” (c)

    Q: “Welcome to this weird, beautiful day,” (c)

    Q:

    Sometimes Solomon lived in a fantasy world full of horrors, and other times I could see that he understood our world way better than I ever would. (c)

    Q:

    He didn’t answer me right away, and I knew he was weighing his words. Wondering how much to tell me. The stories he told—they were part of why everyone was afraid of him. Crazy stuff he didn’t seem to understand was crazy. A city full of monsters and magic and vicious police officers.

    And dinosaurs. (c)

    Q:

    Never in my life had it been so painful, to wake up into cold, drab miserable reality. And it never was again—until that moment, when I looked around and saw that I stood in a world with no magic, no dinosaurs, no monsters. How could humans survive in a world so ugly?

    ...

    Pterodactyls squawked in the dockside air overhead. The smell of the riversea was strong. I breathed it in deep. I’d never have imagined I could be so happy to smell kraken ink.

    Ash asked, “What happened to you?”

    “I went somewhere,” I said. “Somewhere horrible. What about you?”

    ...

    The world was very beautiful, and very ugly. (c)

    Q:

    Every awful thing was asleep. The night protected us, a deep black star-studded security blanket. (c)

    Q:

    I wondered: What was it like, losing your mind? Being unable to tell the difference between dreams and the waking world? Not knowing what’s real and what’s not? (c)

    Q:

    Reality is messy. Reality is horrible. My camera allows me to make something out of that chaos. Something beautiful. (c)

    Q:

    “You know you make people uncomfortable,” he said. “When you don’t wear one. Like you think you’re better than us.”

    “That sounds like an ‘other people’ problem, rather than a ‘me’ problem,” I said. (c)

    Q:

    Another city. The one that Solomon saw, where monsters walk harmlessly through the streets beside hordes of delicious humans.

    The city where I, supposedly, was a princess. (c)

    Q:

    ...you can’t fight a monster you can’t see. (c)

    Q:

    “People Who Failed Solomon. We could form a club.” (c)

    Q:

    I had been plunging from dream to dream to memory to fantasy, until I couldn’t tell where one ended and the next began, or where the real world was in relation to all that. (c)

    Q:

    Sheffield laughed. “A bit of an idiot, isn’t he?”

    “I have no idea.”

    “He’s a bit of an idiot.”

    “This is a great conversation.”

    Sheffield laughed again. (c)

    Q:

    “Like you.”

    “Would that be Princess Me, or Boring Me?”

    “Both. There’s really only one. ...”( c)

    Q:

    Humans are so strange like that. When we don’t want to see something, we just don’t see it. Or we tell ourselves it’s something else. That’s pretty much an essential part of how we survive in this world. (c)

    Q:

    Probably train conductors saw a lot of weird shit out their windows. (c)

    Q:

    Solomon’s imagination is very vivid, and when he plays his weird little game—Darkside City, he calls it... (c)

    Q:

    Vision magic: a rare and valuable power. To be able to see with perfect clarity what would happen in the future, or had happened in the past, or was happening far away in that very moment—people had built huge and powerful empires on the strength of a gift like that. (c)

    Q:

    My allosaurus flexed her nostrils, which is how she smiles. (c)

    Q:

    So I did what I tend to do in stressful situations: I took a picture. (c)

    Q:

    It’s why they call us monsters, because we’re not afraid of the creatures that walk the streets of the city. (c)

    Q:

    “We run your name, we gonna find anything? Prior offenses, associations with illegal organizations?”

    “I don’t have any current offenses,” I said. “Let alone priors. I’m not doing anything wrong. I just don’t think it’s right for you to harass helpless old women.”

    “This punk,” lady cop said, and came at me fast. (c)

    Q:

    He strolled into the street with a smile on his face and his hands full of lightning. A single bolt spun in a beautiful sphere, dozens of strands of it intricately coiled together. It was beautiful—almost as perfect as his face, which looked like summer even though summer was gone. (c)

    Q:

    Pretty people can’t be relied upon. They have too many options. (c)

    Q:

    We hurried home through streets that stunk of cinnamon. (c)

    Q:

    There is magic in me. I feel it all through my arms and legs, shivering in my stomach, burning in my brain. (c)

    Q:

    For four years we explored the catacombs and turrets and libraries and kitchens and pterodactyl rookeries of the imperial residence. (c)

    Q:

    “I call them trained pennies,” he said, holding one out to me. “Get it? Trained? Like they got run over by a train?” ...

    “It’s a kind of currency,” he said. “Certain transactions, you can’t use regular money for.” (c)

    Q:

    You see my dilemma, with shit like this. I had a lot of questions, but ask too many of them and he might pick up on my skepticism, or think that I was trying to diagnose him. Which, yeah, I kind of was. “What kind of transactions?”

    “Lots of groups don’t trust the queen or her government, or they don’t want to pay taxes that support the police. They have their own economies.”

    The queen. Her government. Secret economies.

    Paranoid. Tinfoil hat kind of stuff. (c)

    Q:

    She still wears all black, even though her wife died six years ago. She rides a white tyrannosaur—the only tyrannosaur allowed in the city. It’s a nod to the othersiders—the people with powers—that she cares for them, too.” (c)

    Q:

    I was like a messenger who didn’t care whether she was carrying narcotic spiderwebbing, illegal sky whale oil, or last quarter’s financial reports—long as she got paid when she got where she was going. (c)

    Q:

    The night of the queen’s speech, a sky whale and an air kraken were fighting in the air around the bridge. A bad omen—certainly for the kraken, who put up a good fight but was clearly doomed from the start. (c)

    Q:

    Solomon looked out across the river. His eyes widened. I turned, and gasped at what I saw. Flying through the air, two animals: as big and long as trains, glinting in the sunset.

    “A water dragon and a fire dragon,” Solomon whispered. “Dragons wander—they never nest or build a home. And when two meet, they have a dance they do. A different one for every two elements. It’s a super-rare sight.”

    Connor looked, but then looked down at his feet again. The way you do, when someone describes something that must be a figment of their imagination. Or their madness.

    But I could see them. Serpentine creatures, Eastern-style dragons instead of the winged long-neck lizards of Western folklore. They coiled and looped together in an intricate, gorgeous dance. So complex I worried they’d get knotted together. The weird world Solomon lived in was so much better than this one. I almost envied him, that he got to live there all the time. (c)

    Q:

    ... he hadn’t always been like that. He’d been a kid once, and full of magic like all children are. Somewhere along the line he got broken, twisted. And started hurting people. (c)

    Q:

    And here’s something I learned from her cop shows: wherever there’s a woman in jail for a violent crime against a spouse or partner, there’s a man who did some especially heinous things to push her to that point.

    What did you do, Mr. Barrett? (c)

    Q:

    Confidence, arrogance, toxic masculinity (c)

    Q:

    What if Solomon’s monsters weren’t in his head—hadn’t infected me as I followed him down the rabbit hole of his trauma? What if what I was seeing was just a different reality, no more or less valid than the one without monsters?

    Children know that monsters are real. We forget, when we get older. When we decide we are grown-ups. We block out the monsters. Turn our backs on all that magic.

    But maybe not everyone does. Maybe some people never leave that reality behind.

    Maybe it wasn’t trauma that made Solomon see the world as full of magic and monsters. Maybe it wasn’t his sickness. Maybe that’s just who he was. Special. Gifted.

    Artists, writers, musicians—photographers—they all had to be able to tap into something (the other side) that wasn’t there, some other better world, and grab hold of things, and bring them back so the rest of the world can feel the magic too. Diane Arbus did it, at great personal cost. The world was better for having her photographs in it, even if that struggle ended up killing her.

    With a shiver, I realized: It takes a very special kind of crazy to change the world. (c)

    Q:

    I shut my eyes, breathed in and out, memorized every sense impression. The raw, wet muck smell of the river. The cold wind. The sniffling of the boys beside me. It was one of those moments I’d want to be able to remember, years and years later. The little instants that turn us into who we are. (c)

  • Kathy

    So. I really, really like Sam Miller. The first reason being that he's one of those writers who takes outlandish ideas and doesn't hesitate--just dives headfirst into them. I mean, his novels so far include a cyberpunk rebellion story starring a woman who's an orcamancer, a villain origin story about a boy whose eating disorder gives him superpowers, and now a dual perspective story about a girl with magical camera powers and her best friend who lives in his imaginary world filled with monsters

    So. I really, really like Sam Miller. The first reason being that he's one of those writers who takes outlandish ideas and doesn't hesitate--just dives headfirst into them. I mean, his novels so far include a cyberpunk rebellion story starring a woman who's an orcamancer, a villain origin story about a boy whose eating disorder gives him superpowers, and now a dual perspective story about a girl with magical camera powers and her best friend who lives in his imaginary world filled with monsters and dinosaurs. Even though they don't always work (ahem, foreshadowing), they're still memorable and push the boundaries of what speculative fiction can achieve. And I'll always love creators who take chances.

    The second reason is that there's always a heavy thread of compassion running through his stories. You can tell he's writing them because he truly

    about people--the marginalized, the lost, the broken--and wants to shine a spotlight on their struggles.

    Or maybe reading

    flipped a switch in my brain and now every book of his I read feels like a heart-to-heart conversation. Either way, genuine goodness and imagination makes for a lethal combination.

    Well

    has both of those, which is fantastic, but for me it

    , ultimately making this a disappointment.

    The main culprit behind the issues? Alternating PoVs.

    We switch back and forth between Ash's chapter, which shows the MCs' lives as normal highschool students, with Solomon dealing with severe trauma, and Solomon's chapter, which takes place in an alternate fantasy world where Ash is a princess-in-hiding. The problem is that the blurb and the early part of the story has you thinking that Solomon's chapters are all occurring in his head. So I spent half of the book trying to figure out where the two PoVs line up, because surely some aspects of Ash's PoV should be seeping into Solomon's.

    But they

    line up--at least, not until the end, and even then the connection is tenuous.

    The characters in Solomon's PoV are the same people as the ones in Ash's PoV, but their personalities, actions, and motivations differ (well, only

    with the personalities). So basically you're getting two different plots--starring two sets of characters--crammed into one 400-page book, and neither of them is developed enough to be engaging.

    Also, friendship is a huge theme in the story but because of the alternating format, we don't spend enough time with either sets of Ash and Solomon to get a good feel of what their relationship is like.

    But the

    because it turns the narrative from a "Exploration of Mental Health via Fantasy" story to a "I'm Suffering from an Identity Crisis" story. It strips away the emotional impact that the previous chapters were building up to and I found the result messy and unsatisfying.

    So yeah...Sorry, Sam.

    I really dig Solomon's dinosaur mount, though.

    ~

    ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

  • Surbhi Das

    I am not giving this book any star rating because honestly, I can't decide. In truth, this book deals with some serious mental health related issues and I thought it was narrated quite beautifully. However, I didn't enjoy reading it as much as I thought I would.

    I suppose it wasn't for me!

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