A headless little sister, a "Rocketboy," and an amorous sea creature who mistakes a ship for a potential mate are just some of the strange characters that populate these stories that explore family, love, loss, and adventure.
Andreasen’s assured voice is a blend of quietly brooding naturalism and blithe surrealism, a kind of Raymond Carver sensibility and style mated with Mark Leyner’s fizzy, mad ideation. Employing sharp-edged yet deceptively unadorned prose, Andreasen succeeds in sucking the reader into his drolly insane and charmingly ghastly scenarios ... There is an undeniably cartoonish quality at work in many of Andreasen’s tales: the title story reads like a particularly demented episode of SpongeBob SquarePants ... Andreasen is frequently in touch with the apocalyptic strain in American writing, but even here he offers a variety of flavors. He can channel Flannery O’Connor ... By contrast, if the giant flying bear named Mord who dominated Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne was your cup of tea, then you will surely enjoy 'Rockabye, Rocketboy' ... Manifesting both the wise-old-sage chops of Robert Coover and the newfangled youthful freshness of Karen Russell, Michael Andreasen wraps his readers in literary tentacles that both stroke and throttle, and pulse with fervent alien life.
Through a mix of absurdism, hyperbole, science fiction, history, and fantasy, the author draws a map of washed-up American dreams and fears. His stories chart the plains of abandonment, the futility of love, and vague hopes that never solidify. From the titular lonely sea monster to the King of Retired Amusements to time-traveling third graders, Andreasen’s characters explore this map of disappointment and hardship, learning again and again what we already know but are too afraid to speak aloud: Everything comes to an end. Everything. And from each ending? The hint of a new beginning, carrying the reader forward into the next story, and the next ... A sort of twisted, dark nostalgia runs through ... Instead of allowing his characters to become sappy, Andreasen sharpens the pain and uses the blade to cut open old wounds ... But through all that—yes, even death—we endure. And so, too, will these stories.
The stories in The Sea Beast Takes a Lover often wander more toward the literary, but overall each strikes the balance between fantasy as metaphor and fantasy in itself very well ... Highly recommended for both fans of literary speculative fiction and general readers.