If you haven't noticed yet, I very much dig Swords & Wizardry. Both the original line of stripped-down, super-simple supplements and books, and the slightly more amped-up products of today like Grimmsgate & Monstrosities. An early S&W product that had flown more or less under my radar was the compendium with the no-frills name of Monster Book. Guess what it's about. While it's apparently been replaced by things like the S&W version of Tome of Horrors and the new Monstrosities book, you can still pick up Monster Book for a song on Lulu ($12.75 in paperback as of this writing, $25 in hardcover), and, to be frank, it's more than worth the low price. Obviously a product of the early days of Swords & Wizardry (it was initially published in 2009, so it's got a few years' mileage in), Monster Book (MB) sets about the task of converting old school monsters from 0e through 2e D&D for use in S&W as well as presenting S&W Judges with new and inventive monster options, many of which come from player-contributors of this early era (I'm guessing mostly from the Mythmere Games forums if the byline names are any indication).
DetailsI bought this thing in paperback for $12.75, but you can also pick it up in hardcover which, I now realize, I wish I had. It's not that the paperback is shoddy, it's just that I expect to get a lot of use out of this particular volume, and I'm a little worried about how it will hold up over the years of expected use. MB comes in at 140 pages and, if the math on the back cover is to believed, sports 463 unique monster entries (I'm not about to count them all, so I'll trust +Matt Finch and crew here). Most monsters get a substantial paragraph of info on use, tactics, behavior, powers, etc., with a very few who just get a name and a stat line, but these are things like dinosaurs that you should (a) already understand or (b) be able to look up really easily elsewhere. I dig the compact size of the book (not too thick) since I can pick it up with S&W Complete (plus a module or two) and take up very little space, just when I was starting to question the logic of standard letter-sized books (rather than digest-sized) for convenience, I get MB and get reminded that letter size can be convenient, too.
AestheticsFirst, I'd like to think of MB as an 0e-style book, just like the LBBs and supplements. In that case, MB is exceptionally well-designed with little wasted space, a straightforward approach to presentation and sparse but remarkable illustrations (with a frequency not unlike that found in 0e stuff, so, par for the course). The cover is one of Pete Mullen's awesomely moody, "this is what it's like to dungeon crawl"-style paintings. Man, I love that guy's stuff. Honestly, the well-written descriptions of most creatures were so solid that I found myself not needing a ton of illustrations, which was neat. Yeah, not every monster nor every page has an illo, but thankfully, we don't need it.
Comparing MB to my awesomeness rubric, the Fiend Folio, yields a different but interesting result. A lot of the art has the same Brit Old School vibe that the FF does (especially Dave Bezio's stunning illos; I have never thought of a hezrou as a cool demon until I saw Bezio's hezrou), but it's much more sparse than the FF and doesn't use any of the incidental and transitional-style art pieces like the FF does. It's fine for the 0e style, but not very FF.
The design aesthetic, however, is spot on. Finch & Co. seriously hit the mark by presenting a range of classic and new monsters to fill nearly any situation in a dungeon, even the whacked-out ones. The streamlined design of each monster is simple but not simplistic, preserving the usefulness of each entry. Nothing too complicated to use here (no endless strings of spell-like abilities you'll forget about), and at the same time nothing so simple it leaves the reader scratching his head.