Edited by A.J. French
Review by Darkeva
I wasn’t familiar with the term “monk punk” when I first heard about this anthology, which is why I found the introduction by none other than the amazing D. Harlan Wilson to be quite helpful and informative. It’s related to steampunk and splatterpunk in the sense that it’s a subgenre of speculative fiction characterized by an emphasis on stories involving monks, as the name suggests, but Wilson does a much better job of explaining it than I can, and I suggest that those unfamiliar with this type of fiction read his intro.
This anthology contains every conceivable type of monk story, including Asian monks, Shaolin monks, Anglo-Saxon/Celtic monks, aliens, robots, Buddhists, demons, mercenaries, and even a tale that begins during the time of the Book of Genesis. There’s something in here for fans of fiction that involves martial arts, or for those who think that monks are just plain cool. It’s nice to see an anthology with such a specific focus, and these stories show that it doesn’t get much cooler than monks.
The first story, “A Fistful of Tengu” starts the anthology off with an Asian focus and immerses the reader into the rich folklore of the region, Japan in this case, which, although very popular and well-liked in the speculative fiction community (even outside of Anime and comic books), doesn’t always get as much attention as it should. The monk in this story fights the Demon Lord of the Tengu, and I can honestly say that this is one of the most well-written fight scenes I’ve ever had the opportunity to read. Even though “no weapon forged of man” can hurt the Demon Lord, the protagonist has a few other tricks up his sleeve. All of these elements make for an excellent story and a great way to kick off the book.
We then get a glimpse of Buddhists in “Don’t Bite My Finger,” which gets to work exploring just how far their patience stretches. In “Power of the Gods,” two brothers who are both Shaolin monks have a scrap that leads to another of the well-written fight scenes in this anthology; martial arts fans will adore this piece.
“The Key to Happiness” is a Yeti story, which is something I never thought I’d see, but nevertheless we get introduced to Javier, who has injured himself in Nepal, and ends up with a broken back. A generous but ultimately unlucky monk tends to him and finds out just how unforgiving the famous cryptid can be.
One of the highlights for me came with the wonderfully talented Adrian Chamberlin’s “Wonder and Glory,” which steers the anthology away from the Asian-focused pieces and brings us to the shores of Britain. Mark has just run over a guy in a robe who turns out to be his former (dead) mentor from the Brotherhood who is undergoing something known as the Change, which is, needless to say, not pretty.
Fans of expat Scottish horror writer William Meikle will adore his story, “The Just One,” which is a real treat. A further highlight for me was “The Last Monk” by George Ivanoff, which shows a monk who wants dead monks, mostly skeletal remains, to talk to him as he apologizes for committing sins, including murder. I thought it was well-done, and enjoyed the overall organization of the narrative.
Although there were a few android and alien stories, what drew me in more were the pieces such as “Rannoch Abbey and the Night Visitor.” Set in 1155, a group of medieval monks (who, incidentally, are my favorite kind because of their history with manuscripts) think that they’ve witnessed the Second Coming (as in Jesus’s second coming) but it turns out to be something much worse.
“Where the White Lotus Grows” is the perfect way to cap off the anthology, and is the tale of a woman with a child who is trying to escape from violent warmongers, and she finds solace in the form of a handsome man who she thinks is some kind of angel or celestial being at first. The ending, though tragic, is hopeful in some ways.
I have to say I was quite pleased with the amount of demons in this anthology, although some were executed better than others. It’s a great set of stories, each one with something different and unique to offer, and it’s an essential for any fantasy fan who loves martial arts.
Table of Contents:
- “The Spiritual Riff: An Introduction to Monkpunk” by D. Harlan Wilson
- “Fistful of Tengu” by David J. West
- “Don’t Bite My Finger” by Geoff Nelder
- “The Power of Gods” by Sean T. M. Stiennon
- “The Key to Happiness” by R.B. Payne
- “The Just One” by William Meikle
- “Wonder and Glory” by Adrian Chamberlin
- “The Liturgy of Hours” by Dean M Drinkel
- “Brethren of Fire” by Zach Black
- “The Second Coming” by Joe Jablonski
- “Suitcase Nuke” by Sean Monaghan
- “Capital Sins in a Dominican Monastery” by Gayle Arrowood
- “Nasrudin: Desert Monk” by Barry Rosenberg
- “The Last Monk” by George Ivanoff
- “The Cult of Adam” by Mark Iles
- “Snowfall” by JC Andrijeski
- “Xenocyte: A Kiomarra Story” by Caleb Heath
- “Vortex” by Joshua Ramey-Renk
- “The Birth of God” by Jeffrey Sorensen
- “Rannoch Abbey and the Night Visitor” by Dave Fragments
- “Black Rose” by Robert Harkess
- “Citipati” by Suzanne Robb
- “The Path of Li Xi” by A.J. French
- “Where the White Lotus Grows” by John R. Fultz
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