[Encyclopocalypse]: Christian Francis’ Animus Chronicles 1: Everyday Monsters
Think you know the real story of horror’s most treasured monsters?
Independent publishers are some of horror fiction’s greatest lifeblood, offering platform to stories you would be hard-pressed to find in the common sphere and space to those voices who scream to be heard in a world that often seeks to stifle violent art even as it revels in violent reality. Encyclopocalypse is but one of the genre’s independent houses for creative chaos, but even a cursory glance at their website’s “About Me” section proves they are unique in their drive to make publishing authors new and old a labor of love and passion. It’s a horror home by people who live and breathe the genre for fans who live and breathe the genre. From beloved film novelizations to biographies of horror’s unsung heroes to fiction determined to turn your stomach, Encyclopocalypse has it all. Christian Francis’ Animus Chronicles: Everyday Monsters, while not my introduction to the company, is a remarkable introduction to the splatter-fiction side of the house.
A reconceptualization of the origin of horror’s most beloved creatures, Everyday Monsters’ cast of characters includes everything from zombies to vampires to incalculably disturbing Creator Gods, all just trying to get by without incurring the wrath of the Order, an organization bent on keeping the balance — enforcing law as they see necessary and ensuring every enlisted employee is ready and willing to bend to their will — and allowing humans and monsters to live alongside one another in relative anonymity. When one undead member of the Order enlists a zombie who does odd jobs for hire to help him turn the tables on the organization, gruesome consequences haunt their every move.
Everyday Monsters gleefully paints stomach-churning visuals for the monsters who work among the Order, most notably such heavies as The Moogle, who's corpulent and pustule covered body is described with enough detail to put you off your lunch at nigh on every given opportunity. Such moments are where Francis seems to delight the most, immersing us in a world where nothing is quite what it seems and every legend humans are told is crafted by the monsters themselves as a matter of protection and self preservation.
The only weakness for Everyday Monsters is its tendency toward repetition. A slightly more detailed editing process could have cut some of that out, but it doesn’t always remove us from the story. Whether it was intended to be for emphasis or not, the repetition of ideas so close together — sometimes only paragraphs apart — could be read as a window into Jaden and Deacon Sorbic’s increasingly panicked mental states, and therefore less a misstep than a sign of spiraling, and it would fit just as well into the world the narrative constructs. At best, it succeeds in portraying such anguish. At worst the most it does is momentarily give readers a sense of deja vu. Fortunately, Francis’ descriptive abilities towards his characters and world make up for any moments readers might feel pulled out.
Perhaps the strongest of all threads in Everday Monsters — at least for me personally — is the idea of the monsters engineering their own myths as a survival tactic against a bloodthirsty and conformist-seeking humanity. Armed with the knowledge that all difference is snuffed out, the monsters made themselves into fearsome creatures best avoided, when in truth they live virtually incognito among us if we don’t know their true natures. The vampiric-lore-to-actual-life is a particular favorite of mine, along with the reimagining of the Lord of the Flies themself.
Overall, Everyday Monsters is sure to delight readers who like their horror dripping with blood, guts, and vengeance, with a little bit of heart buried in the center. It was by turns gruesome enough to make me reconsider it as a lunch-break read and unexpectedly heartfelt in certain moments — perhaps the perfect window into the brand of Encyclopocalypse, after all.