This month I read The Devourers by Indra Das. From the back blurb, I got that this was about shapeshifters in India. Sounded pretty interesting just from that, so I picked it up. Wow, though, this book is so much more. It’s about sex, brutality, the child of rape, and both the good and bad of being true to one’s nature.
The story follows college professor Alok Mukherjee, who agrees to transcribe a couple of journals for a shapeshifter in exchange for knowing more of the shapeshifter’s personal history. You get little snippets of Alok’s life and experiences as he goes through this process, which helps tie everything together. In the first journal, he learns the story of three ancient shapeshifters from Europe who are on a migration. These are pretty terrible dudes, and while it can be hard to read at times, it’s a well written and compelling tale. The second story he transcribes gets into a more revenge-y journey of one of the shapeshifter’s victims. She’s a pretty cool character, so I was glad to read some of the book through her eyes. Once the two inner stories get wrapped up, we get to learn more about the initial shapeshifter we met and learn how he fits into the larger picture. It’s just as interesting, harsh, and heavy as the rest.
After reading, I struggled with one question. Can I recommend the Devourers? The answer I came to was yes. It’s just, well, potentially problematic for some readers. It’s violent and cruel in the middle and steamy toward the end. If that’s cool with you, I’d give this one a try. It has fascinating characters, a great sense of place and history, and kept me curious to the very end.
My rating: Oof. This one’s making me change my rating system! This one takes more thought and care than a beachable book, but it didn’t quite earn my top rating. So, I give in. I’ll use stars from now on.
4 stars out of 5 (forgive me; I’ll have to get a stars graphic later!)
Got another Terribleminds challenge story for you. The idea was to mix two randomly selected subgenres. I got kaiju and shapeshifter.
The Kaiju Curse
Finn tugged the ill-fitting edges of his borrowed hazmat suit. He yawned, fogging up the face shield. Why was a biologist, a herpetologist no less, getting pulled in at the last minute at this disaster site in the middle of the night, anyway?
A woman strode up to him carrying a yellow box.
“Ah good. You’ve arrived. Join the others down in the crater.”
She gestured with the box toward a blackened ditch. Now that he was looking, it looked like this woman was holding a Geiger counter. But that made even less sense than his being summoned. He wanted to ask her why for both of those things, but the woman rushed off to bark orders at a pair who were digging in the ashy debris.
Finn yawned again as he wandered toward the crater. Little trails of steam rose up from the ground. There were a few others in hazmat suits in the crater. One of them pointed to a metal ramp that had been set up. Finn gave a thumbs-up and descended into the charred bowl of earth.
It was warm in the crater, and there wasn’t any debris here. The news said that several blocks had been set for demolition, but everything about this little adventure had screamed cover story – from the soldiers and their tanks guarding the area, all the way down to this crater. He hoped one of the scientists in the group ahead could answer some of his questions.
That was when he realized the crater was not devoid of debris. His fellow scientists were gathered around a large cluster of oval shapes. The ovals looked a bit like pale watermelons. A few were cracked open. Finn heard a faint shrieking somewhere beyond the group.
He stumbled over nothing as he gazed at the shapes.
“They… Are those… eggs?”
Have you ever been on hold so long that you turned into a freaky blob monstrosity? Oh! Also! A cool feature of the Procreate program I’m using is the instant replay. Want to see how this blobby blob was made? Watch below!
This week’s Terribleminds Challenge had to start with someone at the door. I figure this works, even if she doesn’t go inside.
Never Trust A Goblin
Lexi prepared her most brilliant, glimmering smile when the door finally opened.
Howard’s party hat was slightly askew. The look on his face was as flat as the punch in his glass.
Lexi held out the present she’d been keeping tucked under her arm. He didn’t take it.
Howard turned around and gestured for her to come in.
“Also, it wasn’t a surprise party. And you RSVP’d, like, three weeks ago. Come or don’t, but these half-assed attempts and stupid excuses aren’t cute anymore, Lexi.”
“But you should hear…”
She lowered the present. She’d been preparing a story about stampeding rhinos blocking traffic. Really, the present wasn’t ready to pick up until the party had already begun. There was no way she could show up without the most magnificent present her friend would ever get.
While she hesitated on the front porch, something stirred in the bushes.
The bushes giggled.
A crooked, green-skinned creature waddled out. It held up a knobby hand.
“Greetings! I am Glurb, the interdimensional goblin.”
Lexi wasn’t sure if she wanted to puke, run away, or laugh. This little guy looked like a toad and a gnarled oak tree had a romantic evening together. The production value was too good to be a prank. Didn’t look human enough to be make-up. It didn’t exactly look dangerous, though.
“Uh, hi. I’m Lexi. What brings you out here?”
“I know who you are. Very famous where I come from. I’m visiting other dimensions in order to give the less fortunate versions of you help in reaching the same success.”
Lexi gave a slow and confused nod.
“And this party…?”
“One of the many wrong turns in this version of your life. Would you like to see how the more successful dimensions worked out in this situation?”
“When it’s done, you’ll bring me right back?”
“Of course! We won’t be gone terribly long.”
“Alright, I’m in.”
The goblin’s smile revealed an odd assortment of broken fangs and oversized molars. He flipped open a compartment on the metal cuff he was wearing. Lexi walked down the steps for a better view. It had switches and knobs, and little valves with glowing blue liquid.
Glurb flipped a switch, and the cuff started humming.
“Now, we can only observe, not interact. And time will–”
“Yeah, yeah. Are we going, or not?”
The cuff hummed louder. Glurb reached up and touched Lexi’s arm. It was drier and cooler than she would have expected. Then they were engulfed in a flash of blue light. She shielded her eyes.
“The light won’t hurt you. It might even improve your vision. Oh, and it’s gone now.”
When Lexi opened her eyes she was back at Howard’s house. But it was cloudy instead of sunny, and there were star-shaped balloons by the door.
A Lexi wearing a cardigan bounded up to the door.
Lexi, the original, normal, Lexi-Prime version, muttered.
“What a dork.”
“One with friends who appreciate her. She is never late and never insulting.”
Cardigan-Lexi turned to glance at the street.
Lexi-Prime felt her cheeks flush.
“Can she hear me?”
“She can’t even hear me, unless I want her to. Come, let me show you another.”
The blue light flashed again. Lexi winced instinctively. She couldn’t imagine how the goblin just stared right into it.
Nobody came to the door in this dimension, because this version had her and Howard as a couple. She noticed them kissing in the living room and shuddered.
“What brain injury brought that pair together?”
Glurb raised what probably counted as an eyebrow.
“I thought you two were friends.”
“Yeah, but not that kind. It’s weird. Why are we here?”
“This Lexi opened her heart.”
“You don’t think I open my heart? Look at this present. Took weeks to ship it in. Top of the line, most expensive–”
“So you could show off. It’s not the same thing. Time to move on.”
Lexi was starting to hate this goblin dude. Maybe an interdimensional elf or a fairy would have been nicer companions. Did Glurb have a boss she could complain to?
In another flash of light, they were transported to a city street. The buildings were shiny and sleek, and very impressive.
Glurb gave an approving nod. He squinted and pointed up and to the left.
“This is your most successful self’s home. That condo is where you spend time with friends and family.”
“Finally, you show me something worth having. How do I it?”
“In this dimension, you only use your elaborate stories for good. You create an empire out of your creativity, and the world adores you for it.”
“Your excuses. You use them to shield you from emotional pain, but here–”
Lexi’s free hand balled into a fist.
“Ugh, seriously? Listen up you little troll. I agreed to this because I thought maybe you would have some pointers on making my life cooler. But all you’ve been saying is that I’m not as good of a person as any other me. You’re a self-righteous asshole. Take me home. And if you really want to make my life better, drop me off at Howard’s place three hours earlier.”
“But, it doesn’t–”
She grabbed Glurb’s arm and dragged him closer.
“Do it, or I’ll smash your little toy so you can’t pester anyone again.”
Glurb whimpered. He quickly fiddled with the dials and switches. The blue light swirled around them, and Lexi was back at Howard’s house.
She shot the goblin a look.
“This is the right dimension?”
Glurb nodded. The instant Lexi let him go, he started the cuff up again. As the humming reached its peak, he shouted, “It’s not a time-travel device, you idiot!” And then he was gone.
Lexi’s eyes grew wide. What was the point of a magical, soul-searching journey if you couldn’t go back to the exact point when it began?
The door opened. Howard peered out, scowling.
“What the hell? You left the party and show up a month later? Are those the same clothes?”
Lexi pointed at the bushes.
“A month?! Oh my freaking GOD if I see that goblin again I’m going to–”
“Sorry I asked.”
“No, but it’s true! I thought I would be back in time. Earlier, even!”
Howard rolled his eyes, and went back into the house. This time, he shut the door behind him.
Lexi walked up the steps and placed the belated birthday gift on the welcome mat.
She was pretty damn sure that if there were any dimensions where a Lexi was doing worse than her, they had also been visited by an interdimensional goblin.