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The Monsters of Morley Manor
Bruce Coville
Magic Carpet Books, 223 pages

The Monsters of Morley Manor
Bruce Coville
Bruce Coville was born in 1950 in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in a rural area north of the city. Though he has been a teacher, a toymaker, and a gravedigger, he prefers writing. He is best known for his books for young readers, including the bestselling My Teacher is an Alien series, Goblins in the Castle, Aliens Ate My Homework, Sarah's Unicorn, and Armageddon Summer (co-authored with Jane Yolen). Coville's Young Adult book series I Was a Sixth Grade Alien was adapted for television in 2000 as a weekly series for the Fox Family Channel. He lives in Syracuse with his wife Kathy, four cats, and a Norwegian Elk Hound named Thor.

Bruce Coville Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Philip José Farmer's The Dungeon
SF Site Review: Armageddon Summer

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Bruce Coville is a justly celebrated writer of SF and Fantasy books and stories for children, as well as an editor who has published several first-rate Young Adult anthologies. The Monsters of Morley Manor is a 2001 revision of a story first serialized in 1996, and it is now available in paperback. It is a delightful book, truly a "madcap adventure" as described on the cover, a bubbly mixture of SF, Fantasy, and traditional YA haunted house adventures, with an unforced serious side.

Anthony is a sixth-grader living in Owl's Roost, Nebraska, with his florist parents and his annoying but lovable younger sister Sarah. While his parents are out of town and his Gramma is staying with them, he and his sister visit an estate sale at the spooky Morley Manor. Old Man Morley has just died, but Sarah encounters a strange man looking much like him, who shows her a curious and intriguing box. Sarah convinces Anthony to buy the box. When they get home, he opens it and finds 5 curious figurines: a dinosaur-headed man, a hunchback, a dog-faced man, a vampire woman, and a snake-haired woman. When one figurine accidentally gets wet, it seems to come partly to life. Anthony become convinced that it is only right to bring them all to life. And then the fun really starts.

The five little monsters turn out to be a family of their own, with a very strange history. They recruit Anthony and Sarah to help them regain their true size and human shape, which not so surprisingly means another trip to the Morley Manor. And from then on events spiral outward, fun revelation stacked upon wacky or scary adventure. Anthony's Gramma and Grampa are soon involved, as are Old Man Morley, various aliens both benevolent and evil, Transylvanian mysteries, lawyers, the Land of the Dead, and the fate of intelligent beings on and off Earth.

The structure of the book, with its increasing odd surprises, seems to me to reflect its origin as a serial. However, all is well-integrated, and the novel is neatly tied together with a satisfying ending. There is a lot of humour, plenty of cleverly imagined furniture, exciting action, and sympathetic, well-portrayed characters. And a low-key, sweet, message about the value of family ties. Put most simply, The Monsters of Morley Manor is a great deal of fun.

Copyright © 2004 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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