We Are Monsters

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

Kirk expertly demonstrates the empathetic power of horror fiction in this novel that will thrill readers while simultaneously encouraging them to take a closer look at the way society views mental illness. Rich characters and atmospheric settings build a story that will stick with you long after you close the book.
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Do you like weird, creepy and gory books? Then you’ll enjoy this one. The most fascinating parts I found were when the story explores holistic treatments vs standard medicine.
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This is a quick thriller bread, treading a fine line between paranormal and horror. Set in a Mental Institute while a corrupt doctor unlocks something otherworldly whilst conducting immoral experiments on patients. 
The first half of the book is relatively slow, but it does perfectly set up the action-packed second half, and that is where the action really begins.
 Although not my usual cup of tea (I prefer my horror free from paranormal aspects) I did still enjoy the read.
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First off, let me say that I truly appreciate Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity to review this book. With that said: DNF at 10%. I didn’t hate it quite as much as some other books I’ve given 1-star ratings to, but this is (in my opinion, of course) simply not good. It’s racist, homophobic, and misogynist. Every non-white character is a walking stereotype. The book glibly uses animal cruelty for shock value and to show how “crazy” women are. The main character is utterly despicable and yet completely boring at the same time, and there was no compelling action or any other character interesting enough to make me want to continue.
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The start of this book was really good and kept me glued. I like books that sort of deal with the mind and this is no exception. But the last 30% of the book kind of lost my interest and didn’t exactly live up to what I expected in my mind.
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Okay, so I don't really know where to start with this one... 
First off, I wouldn't say this was horror. It felt more like science fiction to me and maybe that's why I really didn't enjoy it. 
The first part of the book seemed like it was really building up to something exciting. I mean, it was pretty slow going but it kept me reading. 
Then things started getting weirder and weirder. Normally, I'd love it. My partner doesn't call me Captain Weird for nothing. I LOVE weird! But this was weirder than weird, it took on a whole new level of strange that I just really couldn't enjoy. And honestly, I've found myself feeling a little bewildered now that I've finished it. 

Thanks once again to NetGalley for allowing me to review this.
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We Are Monsters is a horrifying tale of what happens when good men try too hard to save someone they love. When a psychiatrist loses his funding for his clinical trial to find a cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing his cure on his patients in the asylum where he works. The more he experiments, the more things go wrong.  This is definitely not a book to read before bed!
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I was drawn in immediately by We Are Monsters. The first half of the book was very interesting and creepy but it does take a turn for the weird in the second half. 

The story gets into the holistic vs. medicines debate, but the main point seems to be that some doctors are sicker than their patients (I've always suspected as much).

I love the setting and the description thereof. I would have liked to have known more about Angela earlier in the book.

Overall for a first novel, I think the book was very good. If you like creepy weird and gory this one's for you!
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A Surreal And Psychological, Nightmarish Horror Story!

This book involves psychiatrists, patients with severe mental disorders and the institution where many, many events will take place.   One older doctor who is the director of the facility believes in treating patients with behavioral therapy modification instead of debilitating drugs and electric shock treatments where the patient, especially schizophrenic disorders are barely cognitive and functional on the lowest scale possible.   The other physician strongly believes in drug therapy but is working on creating a new drug that will bring schizophrenic patients back to their old selves before their mind started to shatter.   The physicians do have a mutual respect for each other but there will be many unfortunate and unforseen consequences  from the actions of both of these men and to so many others who happen to be in the building on this one particular day and they will have to depend on one another if they are to save any lives.

This was a very creative and at times a mind-boggling story that was well-written and interesting with many cringe worthy moments.   The storyline was very good and there were horror elements although I felt the story was more of a science fiction book.   I did enjoy the book although it never reached the heightened horror that I was hoping for.   The story made me feel sad for so many people that land in these facilities and how many of these patients were mistreated by some of their caretakers.   (Very sad and disheartening).   There are many monsters intertwined whether human or nonhuman.   I am probably in the minority with my opinion but I do recommend reading this book and forming your own ideas.I

I want to thank the publisher "Flame Tree Press" and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC!

I have given a rating of 3 Surreal 🌟🌟🌟 Stars!!
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This novel - We Are Monsters - was a book that I found myself easily highlighting again and again. In fact, it is the only book with highlighted passages compared to all the books that I have read this year!  We Are Monsters  is an eerie and deeply thought-provoking novel about just how far doctors are willing to go in order to “cure” a person who is suffering from mental illness. While reading this novel, it opened my eyes to the internal struggles and the strong willed determination that physicians have for their patients. Whether their medical actions stem from the goodness of their hearts or from the greed of creating a new pharmaceutical drug that can possibly make them rich and famous, it shows just how dangerous trying to “play” God truly is. The human brain is a pathway into the unknown and trying to map it out and understand it completely is something that to this day we have not been able to do. This book was an experience into the realm of the uncharted area of the brain and the possibilities that exist if we dare to take that first step forward into the breach. This book was expertly written and is a definite must read! Favorite Quote - “ I’ve had time to adapt to the insane. This IS  normal compared to where I’ve been, what I’ve been through.“☺️📖👍🏼
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I love asylum horror, and I eagerly dove into this book with high expectations. I read through it in one sitting, set it down, and simply said, "Huh."

This book has a lot to love, but it makes some interesting choices that turned me off toward the end. Let's start with the setting, since that was the biggest lure. Sugar Hill is a facility that houses patients with varying mental health concerns. They have one thing in common. These individuals are a danger to society which makes Sugar Hill is the place to send the criminally insane. The facility is run by Dr. Eli Alpert, a gentle man who takes more personal and less invasive approach to patient care. His protege, Dr. Alex Drexler, disagrees with Eli's passive care plan. Alex is hardcore pro-medication. Thus, the first theme is set up. Which is better, medicine heavy treatment or something alternative and less focused on pharmaceuticals? It's a question that runs through the entirety of the book.

There's more to this plot then a simple "medicine vs. holistic" debate, although that argument fuels the much of first and second act. Alex struggles with vanity and self-confidence. He desperately wants the acceptance of his father, and he wants validation for his ground breaking drug from his colleagues. His ethics are put to the test, and we are left wondering just how far this man will go to achieve both. It brings to light the dangers of pushing the boundaries of morality too far.

There's also Angela, another doctor who is caught between Eli and Alex. Her character remains rather flat until the last act. That's when we get her backstory. It's also one of the parts of the books that angered me, but I'll get to that soon.

If you start this story and think you know how it's going to end, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. You'll never guess. With that said, this ending seems to be splitting readers down the middle. Some might find it a refreshing step outside the typical asylum horror troupe. Others, might be disappointed or upset. Sadly, I was in the latter. While I certainly appreciate that the ending took a surprising turn, I feel that it spun way off the tracts. At times, the morals we are supposed to learn came across preachy. Then, there was Angela's revelation. I won't spoil anything with specifics. Let me just say this. She led two lives, one as a doctor and another as a woman who drank too much and slept with men she picked up at the bar. The reason for this duality becomes graphically clear in the final chapters of the book, and I found it not only disgusting and unnecessary, but offensive. Her secret could have been anything, and I feel that the decision to go in that specific direction was forced, not an organic event that would have happened in Angela's past. I feel as if it was put in the story for shock value. That was disappointing.

On the other hand, I liked Eli's arc. He had an organic and believable plot line. I felt connected to his personal growth from the beginning, and found him to be the most relatable and sympathetic character.

Overall, I was left with a bit of a confused feeling. 

"Huh, that wasn't what I was expecting."
"Huh, what did I just read?"
"Huh, that was, um, different."

I'm on the fence with this one.
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I think that it’s going to be another great year for Flame Tree Press (this was originally published in2015).  WE ARE MONSTERS is a fast-passed nightmare, and at certain points, after various clinical tribulations and accepting the fate of patients struggling with mental illness, we begin to wonder who has suffered more-the insane or the doctors performing the examinations.

I won’t get into the synopsis, but as some of the other reviewers have opined,  I felt that the segmentation of the of the novel became weakened with certain choices and decisions that were made, affecting the overall progress.  WE ARE MONSTERS could’ve been shorter, and it took a while to read, but it still has a lot going for it.  

Thanks NetGalley
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This was a lot different than I expected. I thought it was going to be a typical horror novel that would not get very deep. This book is obviously heavily researched and well thought out. The story takes place in an asylum and deals with how the doctors are trying to help the patients. One of the doctors is trying to make a magical cure for mental illness (using something similar to DMT, which is fascinating on it's own.) The doctor thinks his cure is working and things suddenly go horribly wrong. The characters are well developed and I found it easy to understand how people are certain ways due to their history. I think the author was telling us that everyone has issues in their past and in order to move on and forgive these issues must be addressed. If you are looking for fluff horror look elsewhere. If you are looking for a thought provoking read then this book is for you. This is not for children, some gore but not an excessive amount. A lot of sadness and adult themes.
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Dr Drexler has cultivated a drug which he believes can cure schizophrenia, but as his boss doesn’t believe in pills to treat mental health issues and his board is pushing for results he is left with no alternative but to trial on patients in secret. But what dark side affects are lurking from the mysterious treatment?  

We Are Monsters sounded like a really nice fit for me as a reader; from the blurb it felt like it would be part horror, part psychological thriller that would question what it means to truly be sane. For me the book was definitely one of two halves – which divided down the middle at almost exactly 50%. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book – a mysterious drug trial secretly being carried out on patients with detailed backstory into all of our main characters and their motivations which really inspired me to keep reading. 

Then at 50% we took a turn into the confusing. Rather than the drug having a real-world type effect which would make you question the cost of sanity, it seemed to influence people around it, which made no sense to me. We entered a sort of dream world/nightmare of people’s consciousness culminating in a shared hallucination. I felt this really made no sense and the characters asked so many times ‘how can this be happening?’ or ‘what’s going on?’ without any actual answer given that it frustrated me. The end answer also seemed to make no sense, as if the author just felt they had to come up with any answer to try and explain the plot.

I felt that the book could have been such an interesting read, with a nice set up and well developed characters but the plot devolved into an unrealistic mess, rather than something which could actually have thrown up important questions about the idea of sanity and the treatment of those considered insane by societies standards. Thank you to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A strong beginning that pulled me in and kept me interested...until it was less about the treatment and more about the doctor himself.

The second half got real weird! Slowly I descended into madness until I felt like it was a sure thing that I had lost my mind and was just reading the same five pages over and over trying to decipher them. 

Brian Kirk has a gift. He's very skilled at messing with your head. I'm just not sure if I like it or not. I was confused about the drugs and the visions and never got the clarity I wanted. 

We Are Monsters started strong, floundered a bit in the too long middle and ended bizarrely. I'll keep reading what Kirk writes, but this one wasn't for me.
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Thank you to Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for my free review copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

When I read the premise of this book, I was excited. A doctor with a God complex running an asylum? Sounds like a great set up! When I started reading, I discovered there were many more twists and turns than I expected. There are two main doctors at the center of this story with vastly different treatment styles. One is working on an experimental drug to cure psychosis and schizophrenia. He works on his drug in secret and then gives it to his schizophrenic brother as a hail Mary trial. His brother is then murdered by someone who couldn't possibly be there. This is where things start to get really weird. Around this same point, a schizophrenic serial killer is admitted to the asylum. When he is administered this "miracle cure" drug, hell literally breaks loose in the asylum. The doctors scramble to figure out what is happening before they become his next victims. 

This book had great character building - so much so that I kinda wondered where it was going at some points. Things do tie together later in the book so the details are worth it. I will admit I wished it had flowed a bit quicker in a few parts. The second half of the book was all kinds of twisty, horrific and haunting. Thinking about what goes on in the minds of schizophrenics is daunting and scary. It also brings about a bit of empathy for everything they may be going through. Other than the slowness of the early chapters (that did have a purpose!), this book was a wonderful debut horror/thriller from Brian Kirk.
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Nightmares are terrifying, as well as great inspiration for horror, because a) they are a movie reel of terrifying imagery and symbolism--especially if you believe in dream analysis--and b) they unravel in a disjointed, haphazard way along with other logical aspects of the waking world, leading to c) an environment where we have little to no control. Such an environment is a breeding ground for horror, as Freddy Krueger would attest. But there's another new King of Nightmares on the horizon named Brian Kirk, who establishes his reign with his latest novel, We Are Monsters.
The story begins with psychiatrist Alex creating a chemical cure for schizophrenia. People familiar with how science works in these kinds of stories know that it's basically Murphy's Law times a million, that anything bad that can happen will and it will be catastrophic. In his rush to test this formula, he experiments first on his brother Jerry and then on a notorious killer whose mental issues are seemingly given form and substance, along with the nightmares of other hospital staff and its patients. If horror stories are thought of as roller coasters, this book is definitely a fun house where the floor moves and the walls are mirrors offering only twisted reflections. This book can be considered a metaphorical swipe at an industry and society that overly medicates, which may turn off people who like their fiction without opinions (not the best fiction), but it does so without any overt monologues.
People familiar with Brian Kirk's Will Haunt You know that Brian excels at creating an environment where the lead character, nor the reader, cannot trust anyone or anything. What they've expected about the world and its safety, in Kirk's fiction universes, should not be taken for granted. The Fun House aspect of the book mentioned before takes a bit to get there. Kirk lays the storytelling groundwork, setting up the plot and its bananas conclusion while letting the readers get to know the characters before the tentacles of this well-crafted nightmare pulls them in. Perhaps a better analogy for this book then is an elaborate domino set-up. Kirk takes his sweet time placing the dominoes, but they create quite the spectacle when they finally fall. If Brian Kirk is the new King of Nightmares, long may he reign (or at least keep writing). 
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Some doctors are sicker than their patients. 
When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylums criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospitals  most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free. 

This is a brilliant read.
Wonderful well written plot and story line that had me engaged from the start.
Love the well fleshed out characters and found them believeable.
Great suspense and action with wonderful world building that adds so much to the story.
Can't wait to read what the author brings us next!
Recommend reading.

I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher.  This is my own honest voluntary review.
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WE ARE MONSTERS - Just how I like my Horror served - Dark with a whole lot of Creepy.

Things, shall we say, go a bit awry at Sugar Hill, the oldest mental health facility in Georgia - once known for its sterling record for patient recovery under the care of Dr. Eli Alpert, erupts into chaos when a troubled psychiatrist begins testing an experimental cure for schizophrenia on the asylums criminally insane.

'Some doctors are sicker than their patients.'

WE ARE MONSTERS is the first book that I’ve read by Brian Kirk, and though this novel had a stellar beginning and middle, the imagery Kirk creates throughout is perfect; the latter part of the book felt a bit clunky in places and rushed at the end - that ending, though, My Heart!

Kirk’s WILL HAUNT YOU has been on my radar and to-be-read list for some time, and I can’t wait to read it!

Thank you, NetGalley and Flame Tree Press, for loaning me an advance eBook of WE ARE MONSTERS in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow! I was completely blown away by this book. Brian Kirk has given me a look into mental health and the doctors involved that is both horrifying and uplifting. Mesmerizing and shocking, the clinical drug trials and unexpected side effects make for a book that is difficult to put down. Recommended.
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