Boys, Beasts & Men

Boys, Beasts & Men is the first short story collection from Sam J. Miller, whose previous novels have included the grim speculative world of Blackfish City and the horror-noir of The Blade Between. This collection showcases his incredible versatility and imagination in stories that often put a fantastical twist on finding queer love or belonging. It features a story set in Blackfish City's Qaanaaq, but the collection is often excitingly unpredictable in how it swerves between wildly different settings, casually blurring genre lines.

In stories like "Allosaurus Burgers," Miller plays with the potential of introducing a bizarre development--in this case, a dinosaur--into a seemingly familiar scenario about a child struggling to understand their domineering mother. Other stories are set in far stranger worlds, such as "The Beasts We Want to Be," which imagines a version of the post-revolution USSR, in which a machine called the Pavlov Box is used to condition people into ruthless soldiers. Boys, Beasts & Men is tied together by recurring themes, particularly the search for acceptance in a world hostile to queer love. The collection is also bound by a story told in fragments between the main stories listed in the table of contents. This story-between-stories--a frightening, tantalizing meditation on the threat and thrill of storytelling--ends up serving as a distillation of Miller's appeal: writing that walks the knife's edge of fear and excitement. Boys, Beasts & Men is a collection of 14 stories that perfectly captures the desperate intensity of love and is an excellent introduction to a talented writer with wildly varied interests. --Hank Stephenson, manuscript reader, the Sun magazine

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