Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest 2010

AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Review of the novel The Howling (1977)

Posted in books, monsters, reviews, werewolf, werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2010 by Paxton

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I didn’t realize the movie The Howling was based on a novel from 1977.  So while researching werewolf novels to review for this year’s werewolf themed AWESOME-tober-fest, I came across the original Howling novel and decided that I had to review it for this year’s Halloween celebration.

For some reason, I keep getting The Howling mixed up with another werewolf movie, 1981’s Wolfen (which was also a book first in 1978). But Wolfen was actually more about wolf spirits possessing ordinary animals so it wasn’t really about werewolves.  Which is why you won’t see it here.  But, Wolfen and Howling are now forever linked in my mind because of this.

Anyway, this week’s final werewolf book is, The Howling by Gary Brandner.

The Howling

As I mentioned, this novel was adapted into the 1981 horror movie The Howling, which kept many of the characters but drastically changed the story.  I’ll discuss the movie in two weeks for the last week of AWESOME-tober-fest.

As for the book, it begins with your typical suburban upper-middle class couple.  Recently married and living in an idyllic suburban neighborhood in Los Angeles.  While the husband is at work, the wife is violently raped by the community’s groundskeeper and she’s psychologically damaged by the experience.  The husband rents a home outside of the city in the mountain town of Drago (which has a very mysterious and violent past) to get away from it all and to help his wife relax. The surrounding town of Drago is populated by an assortment of weird characters including a hermit doctor, the chatty grocery store owner and the mysterious and beautiful antique shop owner. The couple is only there for a few days before the wife starts to hear inhuman howling at night. This, coupled with his wife’s inability to be intimate, causes the husband to act out in violent outbursts. He also becomes drawn to the town’s antique dealer, Marcia Lura.

The wife comes to believe that there is a werewolf stalking her, no one believes her and it’s up to her to prove it to everyone and destroy the werewolf.

The book isn’t bad. It’s very short (190 pages) and the story is low key. You don’t even see a wolf until page 90 and you don’t see a werewolf transformation until page 150.  The bulk of the story is the wife’s struggle to come to grips with her violent attack as well as the emotional distancing of her husband and the awful nightly howling.  Several twists and turns happen at the very end which is totally left open with hardly a resolution at all. You also learn next to nothing about Brandner’s werewolves until the very end.  They are big and almost bear-like and it seems they can change only during the nighttime.  They also keep a semblance of their human intellect when in wolf form as they attack people who have discovered their secret.  At the end they seemed to be killed via silver bullets but what is read in the story is not nearly conclusive enough to say even that.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2010 by Paxton

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Alright, continuing on with werewolf novel week, this is a book you may actually have heard about (unlike the previous three days); Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf.

Cycle of the Werewolf Cycle of the Werewolf 1st Ed

Stephen King’s famous werewolf novella (with illustrations by comics legend Bernie Wrightson) was published originally in hardback in 1983 (cover on right). The trade paperback would be released two years later in 1985 (cover on left).  The story began as an idea for a werewolf calendar.  King was asked to write twelve chapters of a werewolf story to coincide with the months of the calendar.  However, when the story became much longer than the calendar could accommodate, the project was dropped and the story was released on it’s own.

Bernie Wrightson werewolf art 1

While somewhere between a short story and a novella (with a little graphic novel mixed in there), this is one of King’s most well-known but frequently forgotten works.  It is centered on the fictional town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine.  Strange events and killings begin happening on each full moon.  Townspeople say the killings are caused by a giant wolf or bear.  Other people say they have a serial killer and they start to call him The Full Moon Killer.  These killings go on for months.  Marty Coslaw, a boy in a wheelchair, encounters the creature in his backyard during the 4th of July.  He barely escapes, shooting a bottle rocket into it’s eye and injuring it.  When Halloween comes around, Marty goes trick-or-treating and is constantly on the lookout for someone with an injured left eye as he now believes it was a werewolf that he encountered.  Marty encounters a person with an injured left eye and begins writing anonymous letters telling the person that his secret has been discovered.  Marty continues the letters until December when he finally signs one of the letters with his own name.  On the next full moon the werewolf shows up to kill Marty and Marty uses two silver bullets he had his uncle make for him to kill the creature.  The cycle of the werewolf stops almost exactly 1 year from when it began.

This is a really good werewolf story.  What I like about it is the fact that it feels like the middle of a larger story.  We don’t know how the individual became a werewolf, nor do we know if all the normal “rules” apply to this werewolf.  We find out in the end that silver does kill it, but Marty took a big chance luring the werewolf to him because he was not 100% clear that silver would, in fact, kill it.  Then, everything seemingly returns to normal after the werewolf is killed, nothing is really left open for a sequel.  It’s a straightforward story that feels like the final 1/3 of a movie.  But, surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that I was missing 2/3 of the movie.  Definitely recommend this, especially to King fans that have never “got around” to reading it (like me).  Also, Bernie Wrightson’s artwork is extraordinary.  It really brings the story to life.  I bet the reason I didn’t mind the “missing” 2/3 of the story was because Wrightson did such a great job illustrating the scenes in this story.  Really, really great artwork.

Silver Bullet movie

As most everyone knows, this story was expanded and turned into the movie, Silver Bullet, starring Corey Haim and Gary Busey.  I’ll review that movie in a few weeks.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Official Universal Studios Wolf Man books

Posted in books, monsters, movies, Universal Studios, werewolf, werewolves, Wolf Man with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by Paxton

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Welcome to Day 9 of AWESOME-tober-fest 2010.  This is werewolf novel week.  Today, let’s take a look at official Universal Studios Wolf Man books.

Universal Studios has often tried to spread their popular monsters into other media besides movies.  One of those being paperback fiction.  Despite having a stable of very popular monsters, their efforts have been hit or miss.  Here are a group of fully authorized Universal Studios Wolf Man novels.

I’ll review the ones I’ve actually read.

The Wolfman novelization
The Wolfman by Jonathan Maberry – This one is the most recent.  It was released in February 2010.  This is the movie novelization of the recent Wolf Man reboot by Joe Johnston staring Benicio Del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  I haven’t read this, but I enjoyed the movie enough that I may try to grab this off  I know the movie had a bunch of script problems and changes, I’d be interested to see how this novel’s story is different.  If you haven’t, check out the movie.  I’ll talk more about the movie, including a review, in the next few weeks.

Blood Moon Rising
Blood Moon Rising (Universal Studios Monsters Book 2) by Larry Mike Garmon – Released in 2001, this was book 2 in a Juvenile Fiction series. I mentioned Book 3 during AWESOME-tober-fest last year because it features Frankenstein.  When I stumbled across this book at the annual library book sale this year for less than a quarter, I decided to pick it up.  And I read it.  And it sucked.  They aren’t kidding when they say JUVENILE fiction.  This book was like one of the bad Scooby Doo episodes.  The story revolves around three teens who mistakenly release the Universal Monsters into this world and must chase them all down and trap them back into their movies.  Book 1 featured Dracula.  This book features Wolf Man and the story takes place down south in the Florida swamps.  The whole book and storyline is a pale imitation of a Three Investigators or Hardy Boys book.  It may work for late elementary and junior high kids, but it’s really bad for anyone that’s any more mature than that.  I was really disappointed at the cheesiness of this book.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, werewolf, werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by Paxton

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Welcome to Day 10 of AWESOME-tober-fest. We are in the middle of werewolf book week. Yesterday I looked at Howling Mad by Peter David. Today, I will review The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon.

The Wolf's Hour

This is an interesting novel. I originally read it back in high school. My dad used to take my brother and I to the “big” library in downtown Birmingham at least once a month for a special treat. It offered a wider choice of books than our local library. I’d pick out a bunch of books about comic books or werewolves or gunfighters and we could return them at any of our local libraries (or back to the original downtown location if we went back in time). It was pretty awesome. During one of my trips I was looking for werewolf fiction and stumbled across this book. It seemed a little long for me at the time at nearly 500 pages, plus it took place during World War II, which doesn’t interest me very much, but the lure of a new werewolf novel was too much to resist.  So I checked it out.

The Wolf's Hour 2

The story is definitely interesting. It combines two very different genres; the World War II spy adventure and the werewolf adventure.  The main character, Michael Gallatin, was born into a wealthy Russian family.  At an early age Michael was changed and then taken in by a pack of werewolves. He was taught by the pack how to live as a man and a wolf and properly use his newly discovered supernatural abilities.  After years of learning and maturing with the pack of werewolves, Michael leaves them to see the world and create a life of his own.  He offers his “skills” to the Allies during World War II and becomes a secret weapon in the fight against Hitler and his Third Reich.  Michael goes on several missions and uncovers a secret conspiracy called Iron Fist that threatens to derail the Allies’ invasion of Europe and turn the tides of the war in favor of the Axis powers.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Howling Mad by Peter David

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, werewolf, werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by Paxton

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Welcome to the first day of werewolf book week. I am continuing with my theme of werewolves by talking about werewolf novels all week. The first book I want to talk about is Howling Mad by Peter David.

Howling Mad

Peter David is one of my favorite authors.  David is a sometime novel author, sometime comic book author and has written volumes of books and comic books throughout the years.  His most famous comic book work is with The Incredible Hulk and his most famous novel work is with Star Trek.  Some of my favorite Peter David books include Sir Apropos of Nothing, Incredible Hulk: What Savage Beast, Star Trek: Q-Squared and Star Trek: Q-in-law.  David is also busy writing movie novelizations, including the ones for Spider-man 1-3, Fantastic Four 1-2, Iron Man, both Hulk movies and Batman Forever (don’t judge, it’s great).  David has also written several original novels like his King Arthur trilogy.  And yes, I read every single book I just listed above.

So naturally, in the late ’90s, while digging around the Internet, when I found out that David wrote a werewolf story in 1988 called Howling Mad, I was thrust into a quest. I decided I must have that book as I loved both werewolves and Peter David.  At this time, finding old books wasn’t as easy as logging onto Amazon or eBay and just buying it. If your local bookstore didn’t have it, odds are, Amazon would list it, but not have it in stock and eBay was still hit or miss for most things.  So I went looking for it by pounding the pavement. For several years. Luckily, around 1999, the book was re-published along with another older David book, Knight Life, the first in his Arthur trilogy.  I bought both books and read them.  And loved them.  Howling Mad, especially.

David’s take on the classic werewolf story is intriguing.  A werewolf hunts in the Canadian woods.  During one of his hunts, a regular gray wolf stumbles upon the werewolf and his kill.  The werewolf attacks and nearly kills the wolf.  The regular wolf barely escapes after being scratched and bitten.  During the next full moon, the wolf turns into a man.  The book follows this “man-wolf” on his adventures into an insane asylum, getting shipped to a NY city zoo, being found by a single woman who tries to ignore her feelings towards the mysterious man and helps him find the werewolf that originally turned him.  Through all this the wolf tries to adjust to his changing into a human man and interacting with the human world.

Like I said, it’s a fun and clever story that takes the werewolf tale and turns it on its ear.  The book is short, just barely reaching 200 pages thanks to a page and a half epilogue at the end and it’s funny.  While not being as uproariously good as I remember, it’s definitely worth a read.

However, as for David’s entire oeuvre,  I would still recommend his original novel Sir Apropos of Nothing before this as well as his Star Trek books Q-Squared, Q-In-Law and Imzadi.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.