Cover Image: Boys, Beasts & Men

Boys, Beasts & Men

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Member Reviews

when I started this book I had a very difficult time getting into it. the first two stories were not what I was looking for at all and my confidence in the collection faded. honestly I considered just returning the book and walking away, but I decided that I would at least skim the next couple ones, just in case.

wow, am I glad I did! while I didn't like every story (imo the first two remain the weakest in the collection) I ended up really loving a couple. overall I'm giving the collection four stars. Miller cleverly inserts a narrative between every story that produces a backbone for each to follow, which was delightful. finding little bits that connected them was such fun.

I've rated every story below independent on one another, but overall I was extremely happy with this collection.

allosaurus burgers -- 1/5
57 reasons for the slate quarry suicides -- 1/5
we are the cloud -- 2/5
conspicuous plumage -- 5/5
shattered sidewalks of the human heart -- 5/5
shucked -- 4/5
the beasts we want to be -- 3/5
calved -- 2/5
when your child strays from god -- 5/5
things with beards -- 4/5
ghosts of home -- 5/5
the heat of us: notes towards an oral history -- 3/5
angel, monster, man -- 2/5
sun in an empty room -- 2/5

tbh, conspicuous plumage, shattered sidewalks, when your child strays, things with beards, and ghosts of home forcibly elevated this collection to the four stars it's getting today. I loved conspicuous plumage so so much and I'll be thinking about it for a very long time. things with beards made me unbelievably sad but also made me desperately want to rewatch the original thing. ghosts of home was frankly incredible, and I wish I could somehow force every asshole corporation involved in the housing crisis to read it.
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Sam J. Miller's short story collection 'Boys, Beasts & Men' is an amazing feat of storytelling prowess. 

Each story stands strong on its own, but as part of a collection, they truly shine. There's also an overarching tale that is interwoven throughout the collection, and the snippets we get at the end of each short story keep pulling you through. This was not only a powerful story in its own right, but an incredible way to intertwine each story with one another.

Though the stories were all separate, there was an overarching atmospheric feeling, as well as similar themes throughout. Not only was this an excellent collection because of the stories within, it was also masterfully curated. The overall impact is not something to be missed - I highly recommend this collection if you're in the mood for stories drenched in grief and darkness, but also power and heart.
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Sometimes, one of the highest compliments you can pay a book is that it was very weird. Sam J. Miller's story collection "Boys, Beasts & Men" is absolutely, positively WEIRD. And in all the best ways. A mix of horror and speculative, and horrifying speculative fiction, the stories in this book all explore themes of Queerness and injustice. This book is filled with righteous anger, and a number of the stories are knockouts. If you are a lover of Queer fantasy and horror, I encourage you to check this one out!
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This collection of stories is a mixed bag for me. The writing style is unique and many of the stories are good, but a few are just okay. My favorites were "The Beasts We Want to Be" and "Ghosts of Home". I think there are enough good stories in here to make the book worthwhile to read, so I do recommend it.
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Very fun, very weird. I loved this collection! There were some topics explored that felt slightly heavy-handed, especially around child abuse and sexual exploitation, but I loved the exploration of queerness and the underlying themes of grief through weird speculative sff.
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The ONLY reason I'm not rating this five stars is that I felt the use of the R-slur was excessive and unnecessary. It only pops up two or three times, but each time it is jarring and, honestly, made me resent reading the rest of the story it popped up in.

Aside from that, I loved this book. Every story feels alive and distinct, but also unified. The writing is beautiful and heart-crushing and radiates with a heat that makes for extremely effective and touching stories.
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The characters in Sam J. Miller’s debut short story collection Boys, Beasts, & Men, often LGBTQIA but not always, are yearning for connection: sometimes direct connection to another human being (occasionally, but not always, romantic), sometimes to a community, sometimes to an ideal. How they surmount the barriers to making those connections is at the heart of stories that cross the spectrum of speculative fiction, from hard science fiction to fantasy to stories that blur the lines between genres. Throughout the collection, Miller’s incredible ability to combine heightened emotional stakes with current social issues is on keen display.

In the collection’s lead story, “Allosaurus Burgers,” a farmer in Hudson Falls, NY (the setting for many of Miller’s stories) finds a live allosaurus on his property. While waiting for the government to take it away, he opens his farm up for photos ops and reporters. The story’s narrator is a young boy, whose single mother is an alcoholic whose very physical job at a slaughterhouse has taken a toll on her. The boy’s hero-worship of his mother, and strained relationships with his older sister and absent father, are what the story is really all about: the ways in which adults, especially parents, condescend to children, underestimating how much they are capable of understanding about the interpersonal dynamics around them. The SFnal element by contrast is lightly worn, but does provide the impetus for the boy to confront his connections with family and neighbors—and address his own inability to communicate what he really wants.

“Calved” offers a more hard-SF treatment of its concept. This post-climate-change tale takes place on the floating city that is also the setting of Miller’s novel Blackfish City (2018), and also focuses on an absent father. But this time the father is the narrator, and he’s trying extremely hard to reconnect with the son he only sees a few times a year thanks to his job on ice ships—the only work he can get because he is an American immigrant to this ocean-bound city. In an effort to reconnect, the father gives the son a keepsake band T-shirt from the father’s own teenage years. When the shirt goes missing, the father thinks he understands what his son isn’t saying, and the story moves towards its emotional and brutal climax. The awkwardness of the strained father-son relationship is palpable, the father’s attempts to get to know his son honest and relatable. But so is the weight of the “tables turned” that characterize the way immigrants from a devastated United States are treated by the city’s inhabitants—in exactly the way many in the current-day US treat immigrants from the Middle East and Central/South America.

“When Your Child Strays from God” continues to make an argument for the collection’s theme: it, too, is the story of a parent who doesn’t understand her son, or how to communicate with him. In the story, the wife of a conservative Christian minister explains, via her newsletter to her husband’s congregation, how she has chosen to connect with the son, who is pulling away from her and from her religion. She has decided, she writes, to take the same drug, “spiderweb,” that she knows he’s been taking, because the drug connects its users in a higher mental state. The journey she goes on, and the truth behind her son’s increasing distance, is interspersed with her commentary on the hypocrisy of certain members of the congregation—and the blind eye everyone (including herself) has been willing to turn towards the abuses of her husband. I can’t say I came to like the narrator, but I did feel pity towards her.

Parents and children are not the only ones seeking to understand or be understood in this collection, however. In several of Miller’s stories that tie, obviously or obliquely, to classic horror films, broken people want to be recognized by other broken people. We’ve already seen a hint of this in “Allosaurus Burgers,” which has a very Jurassic Park feel, but often the referents are even more explicit. “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart,” for example, features a gay Jewish cabdriver giving a ride to the actress Anne Darrow, years after they both witnessed, from different vantages, King Kong’s fall from the Empire State Building. They bond over Kong’s treatment as “exotic” (the experience of immigrants) and as property (the experience of women). “Things With Beards,” meanwhile, answers the question about what happened to MacReady (of John Carpenter’s The Thing [1982]) after his return from Antarctica, as he tries to reconnect with family, community, and a former lover while hiding how broken he really is. Elsewhere, “Angel, Monster, Man” feels like a modern riff on Frankenstein (1818): at the height of the AIDS epidemic, three gay men cobble together a “deceased” writer/artist from fragments of the work and personalities of the multitude of gay creatives whose projects were thrown away by their families—who buried them without acknowledging their sexual orientation or their work. Of course, the trio’s creation takes on a life of his own that threatens to destroy his creators.

“Angel, Monster, Man” is also one of several stories set against the backdrop of real social upheaval in our nation’s history, with SFnal or fantasy tweaks. “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” centers on the Stonewall Riots, in which the connection between an aggrieved and marginalized community creates a heat that incinerates people. Told from the hindsight of years later and by people who were there but don’t agree on how it all happened, the story is a wonderful treatise on community versus individual memory—and on how different a story looks depending on which side of the events you were on. Likewise, “The Beasts We Want to Be” takes place during an alternate Russian Revolution during which young men—intentionally broken by the government in order to make them better soldiers—seek connection with each other and in which past wrongs lead to bad ends.

Other settings are more contemporary. “Ghost of Home” sets our ongoing housing and banking crises for a connection that is part romantic and part revolutionary, and exemplifies both how quickly one can become unhoused and how easily the poverty-stricken can be manipulated by the rich and powerful. “We Are the Cloud” also features a romantic connection, this time between two young men caught up in the foster care system in a very-near-future New York City. The boy at the center of the story has been tossed from group home to group home, abused by the very system that is supposed to support and uplift him. He thinks he’s finally found love with another boy—but things are not as they seem. Finally, “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” builds on the epidemics of anti-LGBTQIA and misogynistic rhetoric and action of our current society, told in the “listicle” format that is so popular in online newspapers and blogs, and is easily the most brutal story of the collection. Miller ratchets up the tension expertly as the reader realizes exactly what the main character has done.

It is the collection’s closing story, “Sun in an Empty Room,” which most clearly exemplifies the theme of seeking connection that permeates this collection, though. Narrated by a sentient couch that has been moved from home to home between stints at the Salvation Army, the story comments on how ineffective communication can hamper relationships as well as how some barriers to connection turn out to be insurmountable. Also? It has unrequited love and a sentient couch.

Whether we want to admit it or not, all humans (and, indeed, all sentient creatures) need connection: to other individuals, to communities, to objects and places; across social strata, across national borders, across species. Sam J. Miller highlights that need in order to draw our attention to the flaws in our society—and also to demonstrate how good we can be if we find a way to work together.
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Boys, Beasts & Men is a short story collection By: Sam J. Miller. I thought I would enjoy this seeing as it's queer and fantasy however I could not get into it.  I don't think I enjoy short story collections so the blame falls on me for requesting this. If you enjoy short story collections you'll most likely enjoy this however I do not.
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I'm not sure what it was about this collection that I just couldn't get into. I don't like to rate DNFed books but since Netgalley needs one and I wanted to provide my thoughts... Theoretically this book was incredible. It felt like it SHOULD have been and I was missing a key piece of interest in it somehow. I kept trying and trying to come back to it and skipping stories. Each one was conceptually interesting to me but not interesting enough I guess. It might just be the writing style or just some sort of reading block. I don't know. Sorry folks!
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I am new to reading short story collections and while I admired many things about this one I definitely had a few issues too. I loved all the different queer focused stories for sure! I think the darker topics and atmosphere in many of the stories was appealing and touching. I was in awe of the illustrious writing and odd stories. I was disappointed to see some of the language used in the stories such as the r-word and I found it really hard to overlook. For me, reading that multiple times took me out of the otherwise immersive worlds of the stories. Overall I think the writing style was beautiful and important but I found some stories to be less immersive than others.
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As someone who likes to binge read, this collection of short stories made me slow down and really think about what was happening in each of them. At times depressing and grim, each one is filled with hunger and longing and the urge to connect. They're strange and twisty, portraying worlds and realities subtly different from our own, ones where queer people have the power to start actual fires with their minds and house spirits interact with lonely humans. Some stories leave you wondering if what was described in the story really took place or not. Days later, I'm still thinking about them, haunted by the possibilities and what ifs.
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Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller

I love a single-author short story collection. I find it a fantastic way to get to know a new-to-me author. I enjoy sampling their writing in bite-sized chunks and experiencing the breadth of their styles and depth of their skill. And Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller is the quintessential example of why I feel this way. 

I had heard of Sam J. Miller when his Blackfish City was nominated for a Nebula but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it, so I was very happy that NetGalley and his publisher were able to grant me an eARC of his new short story collection (which I hope is the first of many) in exchange for an honest review. 

The stories in this collection run the gamut from scary to angry to sad to kind but they all have a raw humanity that I loved. I recommend this book highly and hope to read more from Mr. Miller in the future.
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This collection served as a delightful introduction to Miller's work and I particularly enjoyed the stories with more concretely interconnected settings near the end (The Heat of Us and Angel, Monster, Man). The frame narrative was unique and intriguing as well and I loved the author note about it at the end. A few notes on individual stories below!
57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides - loved this format of 57 sentences comprising the narrative. Compelling picture of teenage solidarity in a small town and hurting those we care about because we're too wrapped up in our own shit.
Conspicuous Plumage was beautiful, a depiction of grief against a fantastical tantalizing multicolored backdrop drained of all life when one is lost.
Shucked - there's always that one where you'd die for more. Gorgeous imagery, internal voice so strong as it grappled with identity and autonomy.
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Boys, Beasts & Men by Sam J. Miller was the first work of his that I’ve read, but I have a suspicion it won’t be my last. Short story anthologies can be hit or miss, but for me, this one was a solid hit; full of weird, dark, queer stories that incorporate elements of several genres, I found a lot to admire within the pages.

Most of these stories center the experiences of gay boys and men, and there is more heartbreak and howling rage than hope to be found within them. Among my favourites were “Angel, Monster, Man”, a story about a group of queer artists who create a fictional persona that takes on a life of its own, “We Are the Cloud”, a Black Mirror-esque take on a future where people sell their brains for data processing capability, and “Ghosts of Home”, a story about a woman employed by a bank to keep the spirits of foreclosed and other homes content. 

Some stories didn’t work as well for me, which is to be expected out of any anthology, and some were a little heavy-handed on their themes or overarching messages. Some also reference the author’s other work, so you may get a bit more value out of those than I did if you’ve read it. What I did love though was the notes at the end of the collection where the author talks a bit more about each story from a craft/meta perspective; I wish more books did or had something like this, because I found it fascinating.

Overall I would recommend checking Boys, Beasts & Men out if you’re up for a heavy, messy, visceral collection of queer short fiction; fans of darker fantasy and horror would get the most out of this. Just be sure to mind the content warnings.

Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for an advance reader copy. All opinions are my own.
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I've been pushing through this collection with valiant hopes that I will come to love the stories as so many reviewers have, but at the end of the day I just don't think I'm meshing well with this writing style. I've found the stories to have some very highlightable lines, but mixed in with other lines that I find sub-par. I keep wishing the stories were longer, or structured differently, because I feel like some details aren't as important as others, and I would love for the stories to be either more developed or focused on a different aspect of the story. I really tried to get into this as I was so excited by the other reviews, but unfortunately I just don't think I can finish this book and give it a good rating, so I will instead DNF it and not publicly rate it.
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I was intrigued by the deceptive straightforwardness of the title of Boys, Beasts & Men—after all, mainstream sci-fi has historically been dominated by men writing about men—and was rewarded by the weirdness and queerness that Sam J. Miller brought to the table in this volume of short stories. Many of them have previously appeared in magazines over the years, but when brought together in this volume, the stories definitely gain something from proximity to each other. I honestly liked all of them, though there were a few weaker installments (which still had merit in either concept or execution, depending on what was lacking).

My favorites were “Things With Beards” (riffing on “The Thing,” a man comes back from a job in Antarctica unwittingly host to an alien, bringing it into the midst of a New York in the grips of the AIDS epidemic and rising police brutality), “Ghosts of Home” (in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, a woman is employed by a bank to leave offerings to placate the household spirits in foreclosed homes), and “Angel, Monster, Man” (three gay friends invent the fictional persona of Tom Minniq as a pen name for publishing the works of their friends who have died of AIDS, but it soon becomes apparent that their fictional creation has taken on a sinister life of its own).

I think I was hoping for something more Angela Carter-esque from this collection, but on the whole it’s more modern-urban-fantasy in style; I’d say in sensibility it often felt similar to N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became and Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War (El-Mohtar actually wrote the introduction to this collection). A lot of urban sci-fi/fantasy, a lot of NYC stories, but also a lot of other material that really contributes to a diverse yet cohesive collection. The pacing was really good; the stories that deserved a little more length got it, and the others were kept short and sweet.

Thank you to Tachyon Publications for the NetGalley ARC.
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This was both entertaining and strange.

I'm not a great fan of short stories because I prefer a well-connected narrative that spans the entire book, but I truly enjoyed this one. My main reason for deducting stars is that short stories aren't my thing, but I think I would have enjoyed several of these a lot more if they had been full novellas or even novels. I especially enjoyed the second to last one.

Naturally, some of the stories are far superior to others, but that's to be expected, and I'd love to see some author miraculously produce a collection of perfect short stories (it will never happen).

This is also GAY. Every narrative is completely out there and unmistakably gay. I think the fact that this collection of stories is a little messed up adds to it. It's incredibly irritating when the only LGBT representation is soft cinnamon roll (barf) figures who never do anything wrong. I'd like to witness some insane people or people that simply make poor decisions because that's who they are.

Anyway, if you're a fan of short tale compilations, you should check this out. It's strange and disorganized.
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. 	I don’t tend to go for short story collections, but this one grabbed my attention with its cover, and the description for it brought me the rest of the way in. I haven’t read anything by this author before, and I also haven’t had the chance to read specifically queer horror in a while, so this was a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

	I was a little lukewarm towards most of the stories in the first half of the book, but the author’s writing style kept me reading anyway. While I didn’t particularly like ‘57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides’ in a story sense, telling it through a numbered list was an interesting method I haven’t seen used before and that stood out to me. 

	Towards the end of the book is when I really started clicking with the stories themselves instead of just the writing style. In particular, the ones I liked the most are the last four: ‘Ghosts of Home’, ‘The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History’, ‘Angel, Monster, Man’, and ‘Sun in an Empty Room’. 

I also really appreciate the Story Notes section at the end. I like the inclusion of the author’s insight into the origins of the short stories, as well as what he was feeling while writing or conceiving them.
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Felt similarly about this book as I did about Miller's previous novel, Blackfish City, in the sense that it was moments of brilliance punctuated by confusing narrative choices. Overall enjoyed this selection of queer short stories and the breadth of characters contained within, but some stories definitely stood out more than others.

Favorite stories:  Conspicuous Plumage, Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart, When Your Child Strays From God
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3.75/4 stars

Content Warnings: Depictions of homophobia, murder, violence, hate crime, exploitation through pornography, exploitation by the government, racism... honestly CW for most things 

I am often not a fan of short stories but Sam J Miller's prose in this what breathe taking in so many ways. The way he weaved his real life experiences, emotions and thoughts into these fiction tales and high fantasy worlds was captivating. 

I would never suggest this as a book you just pick up and read right through. I think this is something you pick up, read, and then ruminate on the truths and the messiness of human experiences, queer experiences and then revisit after you have unpacked it. Some of the stories were very hard to grasp onto truthfully, but that is not to say it is not relevant or relatable to someone else.

If I had to choose one that stuck out to be it would be "We are the Cloud" the overarching social commentary and  "Black Mirror" like description of Angel and Case's love affair was heartbreaking and soul crushing, but so poignant. 

Some of the stories were gruesome, fantastical, and down right brutal much like the human experience and you layer on the experiences of being black, POC, and queer and it all is elevated good or bad, and I truly believe Sam captured that in Boys, Beasts, and Men.
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