Book Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

We Are Monsters is a horror novel set in a mental asylum, in which Dr Alex Drexler experiments on his patients, trying to find a cure for schizophrenia. In the process, however, the drugs administered have caused unforeseen and dangerous side effects, unleashing patients’ past traumas and inner demons, transforming them into monsters.

I love the convention of mad doctors and experiments within the horror genre – the last one I read was Doctor Perry by Kirsten McKenzie – so I was excited to read We Are Monsters.

It was dark and interesting to begin with, as we see Dr Drexler attempt a variety of experiments which all fail. This built up well a foreboding sense that something is going to go extremely wrong at Sugar Hill – especially when it is suggested to Dr Drexler to experiment on the asylum’s most notorious, dangerous, and violent patient.

Of course, this experiment does go wrong and, as a side effect, causes multiple characters to hallucinate. I really liked these sections, as I had no idea what was real and what was fake – the narration was delightfully unreliable. There were also some scary and gory scenes, which felt appropriate for the genre.

However, there are some elements on We Are Monsters which, for me, let it down.

Firstly, Dr Alex Drexler is not a mad scientist or doctor – he’s not even slightly psychotic or twisted. This was disappointing, particularly as the book is meant to be primarily a work of horror fiction. Alex only ever seems interested in his experiments in order to financially benefit from them, which made him seem much more like a businessman than a doctor. Personally, I think it could have been an interesting parallel if the doctor working so hard to cure his mentally unstable patients was as equally mentally unstable himself.

Secondly, the book does not solely focus on Dr Alex Drexler, but delves into other the backgrounds and characters of other staff members at the asylum, such as Dr Eli Alpert and Angela. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy their storylines very much, as I was only really interested in Alex’s character, and I didn’t think they were as relevant to the overall plot.

Finally, the latter half of We Are Monsters gets very confusing, very quickly. The patients kept talking about the shadows and the monsters within, but these things weren’t explained particularly clearly.  By the time I finished the book, I still didn’t understand what had happened, and I thought the ending merely added to the confusion.

To sum up, although I was interested in the premise, and some good ideas were displayed throughout, I think the execution of these ideas, for me, let We Are Monsters down.

Star Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

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I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Flame Tree Press, an imprint of Flame Tree Publishing.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

This post was last updated in January 2020.

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