The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover

Michael Andreasen

With a captivating new voice from an incredible author, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human.

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“Andreasen breathes new life into familiar tropes via the ingenuity of his storytelling.... the refreshing stories in this debut collection are full of delicious detours.” –Publisher's Weekly

Dazzling and delightful, with its feet only slightly tethered to the world we know, The Sea Beast Takes A Lover explores family, faith, and longing through a kaleidoscope of surreal landscapes and spellbinding characters.

Andreasen's stories unfold in wildly inventive worlds that invite the supernatural into our familiar routines: in "Bodies in Space," an extramarital affair is rudely interrupted by an alien abduction, while in "Blunderbuss." a third-grade class takes an ill-advised field trip to a floundering time travel institute. "Jenny" follows a reluctant caretaker's attempts to manage his kind-hearted headless sister, and in the title story, a group of sailors find their ship commandeered by an aggressively lovestruck kraken.

Romping through the fantastic with bighearted ease, these stories uncover a universal yearning for connection in seldom-explored spaces, revealing that aliens can help us think about loss, that time travel is just another way to talk about guilt, and that sea monsters may have a thing or two to teach us about love.

With a captivating new voice from an immensely talented storyteller, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the odd, the extraordinary, and the miraculous to expose us at our most profoundly and hilariously human.

Advance Galley Reviews

In “The Sea Beast Takes a Lover,” debut author Michael Andreasen shares 11 short stories of weirdness and whimsy. Through tales of time travel, an overly amorous sea monster, and an abandoned amusement park, just to name a few, Andreasen crafts characters who share our dreams and dread, though the situations are outlandish and in settings that just faintly resemble our world. The book opens with “Our Fathers at Sea,” a story of a man saying goodbye to his father while searching for a relationship with his own children. Pretty common, right? But he does so at a celebration where the old man – still alive – is put in a crate and dropped in the sea. Things only get stranger from there, but in a quirky and wonderful way. From one bizarre story to another, Andreasen’s characters, including headless sisters and fallen kings, search for meaningful connection – just like his giant sea beast looking for love.

The content of the stories in The Sea Beast Takes A Lover by Michael Andreasen ranges from the bizarre to the more bizarre. Looking below the surface of the stories though, common themes do emerge. Each story seems to find its anchor in a character's need to be loved. In these completely unrealistic, often disturbing stories, the author manages to capture this very human emotion. It is this intensity that keeps me reading. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

What an incredibly delightful collection of short stories! I love strange stories, and these had that whiff of Lovecraftian eeriness to make them perfect for me. They're also incredibly well-written and literary. Some other reviewers have complained about a lack of overarching theme, but I actually don't think that's a major problem. The stories are supposed to be surreal and uncanny. This was an EXCELLENT read--highly recommended for short story enthusiasts!

This was a very interesting selection of stories but it just didn't do it for me. I think the problem I faced was that the stories didn't have enough of a plot to keep me going. The stories were all very interesting, blending science fiction with literary fiction and mixing up different time points. But the stories were just ... there. Nothing really happened. There was no catalyst, no change, no sense of a build up. The stories fell flat for me because they just seemed like descriptions of a different time and place, rather than any specific event that I could focus on. It was also hard for me to connect with the characters. There was no emotional connection with them, and they felt very two-dimensional. It made it hard for me to want to continue reading the stories when I couldn't care about what was happening for them. I think that this was a collection that was unique in its blend of literary and science fiction. However, the lack of plot in the stories combined with the lack of emotional connection with the characters meant that it fell short for me. I'm giving this a 2/5 stars.

An enjoyable and delightful collection of short stories, all pretty fantastical and quirky. Some ventured a little too far into the weird for me but there were others I loved -- like the story about a ceremony day where people send off their aging loved ones in glass boxes to the bottom of the ocean. I wish there was just a little bit more of a theme connecting the stories, as I think this would have helped with the ones that did not jump out at me as much, but all in all this is a solid connection for fans of quirky, unusual, fantastical stories.

Super creative short stories, that cause you to look at the world around you in a different way. I enjoyed each short story, and was fully transported into a different world with each tale. I recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction, especially of the peculiar sort, and those who want short bites of a book - not a huge tome to read. Great work and I look forward to reading other works by this author.

These stories were just too strange for me. I ended up putting it down, unfortunately

Completely enjoyable and magical collection of short stories, from a stalled sea voyage to a time-traveling device with a leak. Crazy little snippets of life that are impossible, but which Michael Andreasen makes seem plausible. I will be seeking out more to read from this author; you should, too.

I'm generally a fan of weird, but this collection of short stories was too weird for my taste. The Sea Beast Takes a Lover is a collection of stories on the far side of the usual. The stories may touch upon the usual or have familiar elements, but there's always something off. And by 'off,' I don't necessarily mean bad, just simply out of place, like cell phones on an old-timey ship. There's a Twilight Zone vibe to these stories, and my love for that show is what got me interested in this book in the first place. However, in reading, these stories are nothing like The Twilight Zone. The stories are mostly open ended, which can work well, but when combined with the lack of closure that I was feeling here, it just makes me frustrated. The stories mostly lacked a clear sense of purpose, which made it hard for me to really get into the story, and without being in the story enough to really appreciate the oddness, I typically just ended the story with a halfhearted 'meh.' Another reviewer said that these stories 'provide interesting snapshots of things,' and I think that's an apt description. The premise of the stories are interesting, and the sense of world building is well done, but I just didn't connect with any of the stories. Maybe they were too weird, maybe they were too depressing, maybe I just needed to read this around Halloween when I'm more in the mood for weird and incredible. Whatever the case, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover was not for me.

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover is a collection of very unique short stories. The stories topics seem to hint at all types of genres but tends to lean towards science fiction (in my opinion), as most of these stories are just..very out there. Some of the topics this book hits include elders being crated and lowered into the sea, alien abduction, rocket men, jealous children, un-saintly saints, and more. Each story kind of leaves you feeling a little lost and questioning what in the world you just read. The stories average around 15-20 pages a piece, and can be read in a single sitting. I would recommended this book to fans of Chuck Palahniuk , or anyone who enjoys the strange and unusual.

3.5 stars Thank you to First to Read and Dutton Books for this ARC ~ to publish Feb 27, 2018. Crazy stories, out of this world, but surprisingly relative to many human emotions. From the death of our elderly - which was my favorite in this collection, reminiscent of Soylent Green - to learning to live with everyday change and the loss of our norms these stories were were told in a rich fantasy. From watching the world of plenty fall apart to riding the waves of a pirate ship this book will give you a wide invitation to your own individual interpretation. Just the book to break up your normal reading pattern and cleanse your pallet, opening up the imaginary sectors of your mind. A new voice in the science fiction world and definitely one to follow.

Wonderfully trippy. A collection of short stories that are slightly askew of our reality. Science Fiction? Deranged fantasy? Yes. China Mieville fans will appreciate this book.

I really enjoyed the short stories, but would have liked to see some tie in with the themes. It just seemed like they got stranger and stranger as I read them through. I especially was perturbed and fascinated by the story of the girl that felt like she had to harm her mom's best friend's baby since it was the messiah. Not sure where this came from, but a good way. Thanks First to Read for the ARC for this book. This author will be one to watch for in the future.

I really loved about half of these stories, and couldn't care about the other half. The stories are haunting, creepy, and will linger in your mind. But some of them are not quite cohesive enough to follow.

This collection of short stories is strange, haunting, and surreal. It is like walking through a disturbing dream, but being unable to wake up because you want to see what happens next. I'm not really even sure how to describe this collection, other than pleasantly twisted. It's weird, yet captivating. The stories all convey a sense of humanity presented in a wholly original way. An unforgettable experience.

I used to avoid short story collections like the plague until I discovered a fondness for tales that are tinged with weirdness, especially those penned by Karen Russell. Judging from the description, I predicted that this book would be right up my alley, but ended up crushingly disappointed. Although a couple of the concepts here are intriguing, most of the stories have no defined structure and abruptly start and end with no real point. Many of the tales also drag on far too long, which made finishing feel like a slog. The title is far and away the best part of this collection.

This is a collection of off-putting science fiction short stories, that is reminiscent of sci-fi authors along the vein of Vonnegut. The narration styles and characters are all just the other side of neutral or "normal," and the stories all leave you with an unsettling feeling deep in your gut. Personally, I enjoyed these stories greatly (though as other reviewers have mentioned, perhaps not before bed) but I can also understand how they're not for everyone. They're a dark study of humanity, not just the dredges of it but also the directions we may head as a society and how people react to (or don't react to) their situations. The writing is engaging and the stories stick to you, and I would recommend this to those who can stomach these tales!

These stories were very unique and quite difficult to read. Definitely not easy reading or night time stories before bed. This book will take some time to get through. I enjoyed the first couple and skimmed through the rest. Not a book for everyone.

This book was really hard to get into that I stopped reading it.

The stories in this collection are sometimes bewildering and always strange. I enjoyed some of the stories, but I felt that there was something missing. This is definitely not for everyone.

As I readily admit, I have a tough time with short story collections. They are usually wildly uneven in quality and tone, and don't usually offer enough detail or depth to truly suck me into their worlds. BUT, I've had very good luck with a few exceptional anthologies lately, so was willing to give this one a try because of the remarkable billing and exceptionally interesting blurb. Unfortunately, for me, that was the best of the book... The collection didn't feel like one that "uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human" - it felt like a random assemblage of strangeness for the sake of being strange, rather than to illustrate or illuminate anything. The opening story lost me almost from the first pages - sinking old people into the sea? Really? Not sure I ever saw "us at our most human" there... From there, it was not much of an improvement, and after skimming through a bunch of the stories and failing to feel compelled to dig deeper into any of them, I closed the book on this collection. Literally.

I had the privilege to read this book through Penguin's First to Read, reserving an advance copy out of interest in short stories, speculative/science-fiction, and the premise of the stories' synopses. Overall, I was pleased with the craft of language - twisted combinations, the unstated dialogue, and the inventiveness of each "weird of the week" scenario. Andreasen clearly embraces the strange, inexplicable rituals and "truths" of our storytelling culture. This appreciation doesn't always carry to the reader, though - the thickness of ambiguity in many of the selections is too heavy, too hard to chew. "Show don't tell" is a short story rule, but a little more tell could scaffold understanding, or help conceptualize the palatable struggles of the protagonists. While each reader will certainly be able to rank the stories from "great" to "wah?", Andreasen does fill all selections with memorable set pieces and sensory-laden dreamscapes. The Sea Beast Takes a Lover is like a collection of Saunders, if the kooky was cranked up at the expense of clarity. I would recommend the book to my similarly peculiar friends, but urge caution to the casual or general reader. Personally, much more to like than frustrate. Regardless of this collection's success, I hope Andreasen's further work continues to invest in this magical realism, a shared sea for the strange and sly.

With any short story collection it’s always hit or miss for me. Unfortunately, this one was mostly a miss. My favorite story from the collection was The King’s Teacup at Rest, which I first read when it was published by The New Yorker. It was the main reason why I was excited for The Sea Beast Takes A Lover. The second reason was the synopsis, which threw around words like “daring” and “wildly inventive worlds”. I did see hints of those things. However, I didn’t like many of the stories in this collection, and the others were sort of average. I did like Andreasen’s style but still struggled through The Sea Beast Takes A Lover. This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review.

I was delighted to read this collection of surrealistic short stories. The tales vary in tone, character, and plot (a nuclear boy, a girl with no head, the title sea monster in love with a ship, and more), the one thing that every story has in common is a visceral sense of humanity. Those driving human forces--loss, lust, fear, greed, selfishness, etc--are so strong that they transcend the surreal trappings, and made each story feel unsettlingly relatable. This is not a book for everyone. I think you need to have a particular affinity for the strange, and a comfort with ambiguity to enjoy this. Several stories read like a small snapshot of something larger, so if you are a reader who needs a traditional and clear beginning, middle, and end to a story, you may be frustrated.

Wildly unique, these stories range the map from space to the sea to abandoned amusement parks but hit home with themes of love and loneliness.

Hm. This reminds of shows like The Twilight Zone. Which is all cool in it's own right. And yet I just couldn't get myself into these stories. Sometimes it felt like those short stories you were made to read in college english class. Not bad, but not great. The characters and events were enough to carry me through the first six before I just skimmed the rest. They're not boring by any means, but I found their lack of clarity and purpose too disorientating to keep me sated. I kept expecting major twists to come at the end and when they didn't, it all just fell flat. I do think this book is right for a certain niche of people. The stories have sci-fi elements and are a wonderful portray of imagination. Just not the right fit for me.

“They are strange places, these abandoned fairgrounds and shipwrecked boardwalks and dry, cavernous water parks. Something more than people has deserted them, made the world turn its gaze elsewhere and not look back.” I received a free e-ARC through First to Read from the publishers at Penguin Random House. I was really excited to read this, since Ray Bradbury and Karen Russell have fueled my love for weird short stories. The downside is that the competition is extremely steep. The Sea Beast Takes A Lover is a collection of short stories that are part science fiction, part literary fiction, and part something else entirely. In Andreasen’s worlds, a giant squid anchors a ship for weeks, desperate to be loved, a girl survives into adulthood without a head, and older generations are crated at the bottom of the sea. I seem to be in the minority of readers who didn’t enjoy this collection at all. I struggled through it, and not one of the stories really stood out to me. I’m having trouble pinpointing exactly what didn’t work for me overall, but it seems to be more specific failures in each story. The most common one is that many of them lack any sort of plot or closure. “The Sea Beast Takes a Lover”, “Jenny”, and “Andy, Lord of Ruin” are good examples of this. There are jarring (in a good way) juxtapositions: pirates with cell phones and archaic settings with modern slang. They provide interesting snapshots of things–a ship rendered immovable by a sea monster’s affection, a girl without a head, a boy who goes nuclear–but that’s all. They don’t go anywhere. Nothing happens. Make of it what you will. Not that things necessarily have to happen for a book to be good. A story can explore characters or ideas equally well, but there’s no strong sense of that here either. The characters are, by and large, the kind of self-serving and at times outright despicable cutouts that I’m weary of in adult fiction; it’s no wonder so many adults read YA, which is at least full of people I’d want to know. The narrator in “Our Fathers at Sea” blames his father for his illness, the little girl in “He Is the Rainstorm and the Sandstorm, Hallelujah, Hallelujah” actively thinks about killing a baby, and the brother in “Jenny” resents his headless sister for her helplessness. There’s little to no empathy or human connection to be found anywhere, and they’re not even horrible in interesting ways. The first story, “Our Fathers at Sea”, is probably the strongest narratively and emotionally. It at least has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and there’s no small amount of empathy in it–although that empathy comes strictly from the reader and not from the narrator. In part, it seems like a criticism of euthanasia, but I don’t think the story comes down hard on either side of the argument. If there is a message, I think it’s something to do with paying attention to issues like this and not looking away because they make us sad or uncomfortable. The rest of the collection is much less clear. I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to make of it, or of any of the situations presented here. If there’s a moral or a philosophy, it’s well beyond me. It’s mostly downhill from there, with the religiously inclined stories hitting the bottom of the barrel. “The Saints in the Parlor” reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk without the edginess or the insight that occasionally makes Chuck Palahniuk worth paying attention to. “Bodies in Space” is the kind of penis-centric literary fiction that I’d hoped we were moving away from and seems mostly an excuse to describe what boobs look like in zero gravity. (Honestly, if you need more than one paragraph to talk about boobs, I think you should reconsider what genre you’re writing in. Women do it and it’s romance, but if men do it, it’s called literary fiction.) The narrator spends most of the story bemoaning the fact that his wife left him after he cheated on her (and then, inconveniently, was abducted by aliens). He never once pauses to consider what that must have been like for her, and he’s equally disdainful of his mistress. The writing is a little preoccupied with its own cleverness, as if Andreasen had a thesaurus open for each story and picked the most archaic words he could find. I don’t think it’s intentionally pretentious, just an awkward cross between science fiction and literary fiction that ultimately doesn’t do either very well. Absent plot, character, philosophy, or human connection, the stories seem to rely solely on their ability to entertain–assuming readers are entertained by the same kinds of things Andreasen is. It’s not a bad thing for a story collection to do, but it’s a problem if you don’t find a single one of them enjoyable. There’s nothing else to save it. I review regularly at

2.5 out of 5 for me. I really wanted to love this debut novel, I was expecting something along the lines of Ben Loory, and while I didn't hate it, it just wasn't my particular cup of tea. The writing itself is imaginative and talented, the stories themselves just came off as a little too weird for me. There were a couple good ones, especially the last - Blunderbuss, but overall they were too disjointed and off the wall for me to get really invested in them.

The stories in the book are pretty far fatched and blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. Similar to Asmov and Bradbury in obscurities. Recommend.

This book is a riot, the tales run the spectrum, irreverent, weird, morbidly funny to horror and the bizarre. Surprisingly fun, enjoyable read. The titular story is my favorite. Recommend.

This book promised a lot, and I was surprised to find it really delivered. Andreasen's voice is unique in every way, and his stories are equally heartwarming and horrifying. Excellent!


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