Review: ‘Boys, Beasts & Men’ by Sam J. Miller

Boys Beasts and Men

Boys, Beasts & Men is a phenomenal short story collection that brings to mind a pack of wolves, with each story pulsing to its own heartbeat, straining at the leash that affixes it to the whole with bestial vigor. 

The stories are dark, enigmatic, eerie and fantastical, all written with surprising weightlessness. As a result, they invoke the feeling of trying to breathe in subzero temperatures, when puffs of gelled heat are replaced by a chill, one which steals more than just body heat.

In much the same way, Miller’s prose breaches and traces that most inner part, sneaking its way past the body’s defenses, pawing at the senses. Every story is wildly imaginative, each one twists and bends its form to stun and titillate that much more. And aside from the wonderfully eclectic narratives, which burst and shatter but never disenchant, it’s emotion that dominates every page.

Death, grief, rage, lust, longing, loss and desire breed various beasts and terrors, which are, in turn, nurtured by the intensity of human passion. Likewise, the monsters’ physicality is used to illustrate the depravity lurking within the human psyche.

Miller makes it a point to disengage the body from the soul, repeatedly referencing “the bodies we wear”, the fates dictated by our lack of choice when it comes to the fit and color we’re assigned upon conception. This fracture is tangible in each one of his stories, and it blends eroticism with ghoulishness, sensuality with violence.

Talk of capitalism and AIDS is founded on rage, but it’s the intensity of the emotion that allows sensations and actions to bleed into each other, arousing those in the throes of savagery. The idea of the body is further pushed to envelop Eastern elements, such as spirits incorporating the essence of a house.

Through them, Miller shows the rupture between the spiritual and the material in the human mind, an innate sense of connection gone feral. What enhances the collection’s unique appeal is the stories’ duality, the way they instill morals to combat insanity.

Miller is the master of his worlds and his characters the gods of their domains, pivoting and remolding reality in a state of euphoric dread. That’s why entering the space they occupy is a challenge, a thrill, a plunge into an untethered imagination. Not a gradual descent, but a drop toward a new, form-defying center of gravity. 

Boys, Beasts & Men is the fruit of substantial creative autonomy, a glorious nightmare wrapped around a daydream. Its images are vibrant, its thoughts throb on the page, its characters reshape the labyrinth of the mind, fears and desires feed on the flesh they manifest.

Whatever imprint the stories choose to leave behind, whether it be yearning, outrage, grief, or unfulfilled carnality, each one is imbued with sorrow, each one breaks you with a craving for more.

Publication date: May 10, 2022 (Tachyon Publications)

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