Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review The Beast From Below by William Ledbetter.
Fiction Friday: The Beast From Below
You want giant monsters? Well, we don’t have Godzilla 2.0, but we do have something I never knew I wanted. A giant armadillo. I mean, how can you say no to that? After all, I do love me some giant monsters.
Today’s short story is The Beast From Below by William Ledbetter, as featured in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. You can find it here. I truly enjoyed how innocent and goofy this story was and the ending put a smile on my face. Though short, it’s a great read, so let’s begin.
The story takes place in Redemption, Oklahoma. A strange hole appeared, destroying a small town where the mayor owns everything, and discover that a strange beast is lurking. Roughly thirty feet, the main character, Harry, identifies it as a giant armadillo, far larger than any normal armadillo in existence. With no other option, they go down into the pit and lure it out. Between the large, radioactive grubs and the dark tunnel, they prove that dealing with the monster is easier said than done.
The idea of a giant armadillo is a neat idea and isn’t something you see often. Most giant monsters are either based on lizards or monkeys or even dogs. I love when stories go out of their way to get a creature you don’t see that often. An armadillo seems so appropriate for what is basically the middle of the United States. A country no one would think of having a giant monster.
Towards the end, it becomes a fun situation. I hate giving away the ending, but it’s still fun when you read it. The hero controls the beast and they use him as a fair attraction. It’s a fun twist on the kind of story and it basically shows that at the end of the days, these stompy monsters are animals and killing them because they’re big is the easy way out. Especially those who are just massive. The bigger they are, the more they’re seen as a threat. I get why, seeing such a big creature cause so much reckless destruction, but I like stories that don’t take the easy way out. The idea of using the giant armadillo for something good and useful, to give him a purpose, is a great way to end it.
There’s a hint of innocence in that none of the characters are particularly evil and the armadillo is obviously a big threat. But the armadillo, like it’s real counterpart, is harmless to a point. I appreciate the effort in portraying such large beasts as more afraid of them than they’re afraid of it.
Overall, it’s a great idea and shows that you don’t always need an army to win.
While the story was a joy to read, none of the characters stood out. Their personalities meshed well, but they were along for the ride. The armadillo was the more interesting one. I want one like it in real life that I can just ride around like a horse and be a pet. I see a lot of stories where I want the characters to be real and that’s what I like about this genre. I wish some of this was real and that I could interact with characters like this Armadillo and that alien cephalopod from one of my previous reviews. I love the idea of giant, innocent creatures and while the monster armadillo wasn’t innocent to start with, he did grow on me by the end.
The writing is simple, yet effective. I got a clear view of the world and nothing was too overwhelming or too light. It was a perfect middle ground. While it’s not the best I’ve seen, it captured the suspense and mystery the story was trying to accomplish. The dialogue was decent, but nothing fantastic.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and found it to be a simple tale that is worth reading. I’ll try to review another story from F&SF next month, so keep an eye out for that. If there’s a story from it you’d like me to review from this magazine, then let me know. I’m always open to requests.
So what did you think of this story? Did you find yourself curious about the giant armadillo? Would you like one of your own? Let me know in the comments.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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