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Literature / The Monsters of Morley Manor

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The Monsters of Morley Manor is a children's novel written by Bruce Coville. Originally released in five parts in the Bruce Coville's Book of... series (specifically, in Book of Monsters II, Book of Aliens II, Book of Ghosts II, Book of Nightmares II and Book of Spinetinglers II), it was revised and published as a single volume in 2001.

The book tells the story of sixth-grader Anthony Walker and his sister Sarah, who make a startling discovery while exploring Morley Manor: a box containing five brass monster statues, who turn out to be living beings in a state of hibernation.

Coville freely admits this is the weirdest book he'd ever written, but he had a lot of fun doing it. (His own mother's response to it was "Bruce, you're getting stranger and stranger.")

An audiobook version has also been produced, with Coville as the voice of Gasper Morley.

The Monsters of Morley Manor provides examples of:

  • Abusive Alien Parents: There's a brief sequence in which Anthony reanimates the corpse of an alien Child Soldier, and experiences all of that soldier's memories, beginning with a time he was left alone on a mountain overnight to toughen him up. (He also mentions, but refuses to describe further, a time when four children were left alone in a room with only enough water for two of them to survive until the day they were scheduled to be released.)
  • Adaptation Expansion: When Coville was releasing the second half of his Bruce Coville's Book of... anthology series in 1996 and 1997, books seven through eleven each began with a portion of this story. The five portions — Little Monsters, Through The Starry Door, A Trip To The Land of the Dead, When Evil Wakes and The Coldest Touch — were revised and published in a single volume in 2001.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Sisters Darlene and Marie were renamed Ludmilla and Melisande in the full-length version of the book.
  • Adults Are More Anthropomorphic: Inverted — the younger versions of the frog-like aliens that the characters meet are humanoid, while their queen and mother is shaped like a normal (if enormous) frog.
  • Anthropomorphic Transformation: Bob is normally a cocker spaniel, but became a were-human at some point — once a month (during the full moon) he turns into a humanoid form with a wolf-like face, to the point where Anthony initially mistakes him for a classic wolf-man. He reverts to normal after the sun rises.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: The climax has one, as Anthony gets mentally contacted by Martin Morley.
    Martin Morleskievich: "This is Martin."
    Anthony: "Martin? As in Gasper's brother? As in the kid the Flinduvians brought back with them?"
    Martin: "No, Martin the next-door neighbor's dog. Of course I'm Gasper's brother."
  • Body Surf: Martin Morley has, after being put into and pulled out of more copies of his own body than he can count, learned how to change bodies on his own. He uses this ability to help rescue his family.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Exposing the brass monster statues to water is all it takes to revive them, though they need to use Gaspar's lab to return to their normal sizes.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Martin Morley fell through "a hole in the world", sending him to the planet Flinduvia, and he's been effectively stuck there ever since, with a Flinduvian-made clone being sent back in his place.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Wentar's real name is never revealed — everyone just calls him "Wentar", originally, or "the Wentar" after he reveals it's a title.
  • Fallen Angel: Ivanoma, who claims to have taken the wrong side in an ancient war, and is punishing itself for this.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: "Wentar", which the Morleys originally thought was a name. The Wentar, however, eventually explains that it's actually a title for members of his organization, who keep an eye on the various races in the universe.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Melisande loves animals, and even the nastier ones (like Mr. Perkins, Mrs. Walker's jerkish pet monkey) will listen to her.
  • Frog Men: The frog-like residents of an unidentified planet, whom the group visit to try and learn information on the Flinduvian plan.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Melisande's chosen alternate form, which lacks the powers of the traditional Medusa.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: A rare female example: Anthony's mother went through a sort of one when she turned forty, buying the monkey she always wanted when she was a kid, but which her parents wouldn't get her. Her family isn't too thrilled by this, and her own mother takes it personally enough that she won't visit them anymore.
  • The Igor: Albert, the resident hunchback and Gaspar's friend.
  • Lizard Folk: Gaspar's chosen alternate form is a humanoid lizard.
  • Loophole Abuse: The rules of the Starry Door prevent more than ten members of a species from passing through it in a day. However, they can transport as many corpses as they wish, which the Flinduvians plan to take advantage of in order to create a zombie army.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Mr. Perkins, Anthony's mother's pet monkey, is a jerk who likes to bite people (though not hard enough to make them bleed), steal their things and pee on their heads. Anthony's also certain that he's smart enough to know that if he ever bites someone hard enough to draw blood, they'd get rid of him.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • It's never explained exactly how Bob the cocker spaniel got turned into a were-human, just that it happened when the Morleys were still living in Transylvania.
    • A completely serious case when Anthony's been forcibly inserted into a Flinduvian body and starts to remember parts of the body's Training from Hell. He "still can't talk about" when four trainees were locked in a room with only enough water for two of them to survive until they were scheduled to be released.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Ludmilla's chosen alternate form. The only vampiric traits she displays are their speech patterns and turning into a bat.
  • Painful Transformation: On the planet Zentarazna, the locals have developed a means of freely changing their bodies into whatever form they want. It's far harder and more painful (as evidenced by their screaming) to change on Earth, but they do so anyway when they have no choice... and as Gaspar tells Anthony, if they stop midway, the results will be even worse.
  • Persona Non Grata: Inverted with Mrs. Walker's mother — she's refused to visit her daughter's home ever since Mrs. Walker fulfilled her childhood dream and got a pet monkey (which her parents had always refused to get for her), which she apparently takes personally.
  • Portal Network: The Starry Door, which allows for transport between worlds.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Flinduvians want to use Earth's ghosts to power an army of undead soldiers.
  • Serial Novel: The Monsters of Morley Manor was originally published as one in the Bruce Coville's Book of... anthology series.
  • Sharing a Body: Anthony Walker and his deceased grandfather share Anthony's body for a time. He also briefly shares a Flinduvian body with Martin Morley.
  • Shrink Ray: The device the clone of Martin Morley used on his family worked as one, leaving them five inches tall, along with Taken for Granite.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Ludmilla and Melisande Morley were tired of the constant attention they got for their striking beauty, so when they went to Zentarazna and learned the people there could take strange new shapes effectively at will, they were immediately interested.
  • Sssssnake Talk: Melisande, due to her gorgon transformation, hisses her "S"s. She stops doing it when she's back in human form.
  • Taken for Granite: Martin's device, in addition to shrinking them, left his family as brass statues.
  • Thicker Than Water: During the final battle, Martin Morley explains to Anthony that the Flinduvians have no family bonds at all, and assumed he was the same simply because he'd had conflicts with his brother and sisters. In fact, he still loved them very much, had spent decades plotting to save them, and risked himself to get their frozen forms to safety when he found out the family home was due to be torn down and the contents sold off. As he puts it, "Vile Flinduvians! They did not understand the ties that bind the Family Morleskeivich!"
  • Totally Not a Werewolf: Bob, who looks like a werewolf, but is really a cocker spaniel and were-human.
  • Translator Microbes: The frog-like aliens the heroes visit use magic to let them understand and speak his language. The speaking part is later removed, but they can still understand other languages.
  • The Underworld: The Land of the Dead, functioning as the classic Purgatory — a place where spirits wait until they can move on to the true afterlife. Anthony, his sister and grandmother, and three of the Morleys visit there to warn the dead that the Flinduvians are planning to capture them and use them as batteries.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Flinduvians can enter a kind of "anger beyond anger" known as the Red Haze. It's part of why the rest of the Coalition of Civilized Worlds doesn't much like them.
  • Vampire Vords: Anthony describes Ludmilla as speaking in an accent like Bela Lugosi (including changing "W"s into "V"s), notes at the same time that the rest of her family doesn't have this accent, and wonders if she's either faking it or if it came with the vampire transformation.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The titular monsters have spent time on the planet Zentarazna, where people have developed a way of freely changing their bodies to resemble whatever they want through technology, which Gaspar, Ludmilla and Melisande quite enjoy. These transformations can also be done on Earth, but it's a lot harder and more painful than on Zentarazna.
  • When Elders Attack: During the final battle with the Flinduvians, Gramma Walker gets in on the action, beating one of them over the head with her shoe.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: As the Wentar reveals, time flows differently on different planets. Martin Morley later expands on it, explaining that on Flinduvia, three minutes pass for every one minute on Earth.