Title: Bestial Werewolf Apocalypse
Author: William D. Carl (at last check, A)
It wasn’t awful.
In comparison to Empire, Bestial Werewolf Apocalypse (soon, for reviewing purposes, to be shortened to Bestial) is almost Pulitzer prize winning material. However, it suffers from similar problems in theme, development, and overall feel. This leads me to believe that someone at Permuted Press either has a really sick sense of humor, an imagination limited to corn syrup blood, or is actually a zombie with no concept of how to work a paper shredder.
Bestial’s plot is as follows: one fine evening most of the citizens of Cincinnati Ohio turn into werewolves.
Of course, this being a survival horror novel, there are people who, by hook or by crook, are immune to the curse and wind up being the delicious meaty chunks of the bloody stew. Our core group of survivors consists of Chesya the Strong Black Bankteller Who Totally Survived the Ghetto, Rick the Aryan Bank Robber Who Really Just Wants To Have Fun, Christian the Teenage Hooker Whose Dad Abused Him, and Kathy, Christian’s Totally Pampered High Society Guilty Mom. Later on, we also meet Andrei the Russian Jesus.
This group of people manage to puzzle out that the werewolf ‘curse’ is actually a virus, the fault of BioGen labs. With this in mind and realizing they are immune to said disease, they head for the Ohio/Kentucky line, hoping to make it to safety before nightfall. Bestial happens over roughly seventy two hours, and they are a packed seventy two hours.
Carl took a step in the right direction with his werewolves. Werewolf isn’t really a broad enough term. The creatures are Lycanthropes, certainly, but they share aspects of a wolf, a bear, and a lion. Sorry, no tigers. In terms of creature creation, they’re pretty impressive. Each outlandish aspect of their biology and physiology is explained in a manner that makes sense, which wins him points. However, they still suffer from that terrible disease of a single dimension.
Lycanthropes are animals of habit, that’s it. They fight, they eat, they screw (because this just wouldn’t be a permuted press novel if sex wasn’t mentioned every third paragraph.) Carl doesn’t delve into how animals develop relationships with one another. Very late in the novel he touches on something not unlike a pack mentality, but most of the time it’s every stupid animal for themselves. I feel like the lycanthropes could have been ten times scarier if only more time had been spent on how they thought, not just how they worked. An unstoppable wall of monsters is Cujo’s insipid extended family. An unstoppable wall of monsters that know how to organize- I’d be running scared.
In the case of the survivors, Carl did a much better job in development than Dunwoody could ever hope to achieve. For one, he didn’t spend a ton of time pussying around with other potentials just to kill them. If a character was erroneous, they died. Of course there is a single exception. This exception is also known as ‘writing oneself into a corner’.
Jean Cowell, an elderly Frenchman and the Scientist Mastermind of this whole mess, blows his head off long before the survivors get together. Jean’s death is not only not in line with his personality (being, as is mentioned often, a survivor of the Nazi camps, he’s a little dedicated to his own survival.) it is also a total waste. Jean could have provided far more back story and his intimate participation with the project resulting in the werewolves would have made for an excellent redemptive death. Carl tries to salvage Jean’s sudden absence through flashbacks and the not so clever use of the ‘found item’- in this case, Jean’s journal, which Christian thoughtfully picks up while running for his life. It’s a decent attempt, but the book would have made far more sense if Jean had lived, at least a little while longer.
Moving on to the survivors. Their development is by far superior to Empire’s sham of a cast, but they are defined by things that, in a city full of psychos turning into werewolves, would no longer be relevant. For example, Chesya. She’s very religious. Very. As in there’s a gigantic predator bearing down on her and she won’t even swear. I’m sorry, but if everyone in my hometown suddenly transformed into a ravenous predator intent on gnawing my skull to pieces, I think the good Lord would forgive the many F-bombs I would drop. It’s such a drab fact to focus on. Likewise, Rick’s personality is dependent entirely upon Chesya’s initial thoughts about him. If anyone in this book were a main protagonist, it is Chesya; Rick is just there, presenting various facets of her past and present that she doesn’t particularly like looking at.
Christian seems remarkably well adjusted for a whore. Christian’s father abused him sexually and physically, so he ran away. He took up with Jean. This is apparently a Big Deal. Jean being homosexual is mentioned almost every time he shows up in text, even after he dies. In the meantime, the fact that Christian has become a prostitute on the street is somehow more relevant to his character development than the abuse of his parents. The actual events- the molestation at the hands of his father and various friends- are mentioned in passing. The prostitution? Mentioned all the time. If Christian is meant to stand as some kind of tarnished hero, then he needs to show all the tarnish.
Kathy also suffers from a chronic case of ‘pasted on personality’. She’s a society mom who believed her husband over her son, and therefore Is Guilty. There you go. that’s all you need to know about Kathy. Seriously. Oh, and she rides bikes. And somehow manages to wind up in one of many pointless confrontations with werewolf people that serve no logical purpose except to prove to us that being turned into an animal is wrong.
I’ll point out something that bothered me early on right now. Each of our survivors is named, intentionally or not, after a judeo-christian saint. Except Chesya. Who is the only black person in the entire book. That fact is mentioned, oh, every ten seconds or so. Yes, Carl, we understand that the obligatory second female survivor is pretty much an African fertility goddess. Now please, could we get back to the story at hand?
You’ll note I have yet to mention Andrei. Andrei Sokovitch is important. He is Werewolf Prime, Subject Zero, Project Alpha/Omega. Essentially, he’s the werewolf from which all other Cincinnati werewolves were created. For most of the book, Andrei is safe and sound in a plexiglass prison while all of Cincinnati falls apart outside.Convenient? Well, yes. Overly so. What’s even more convenient is the fact that he’s the only werewolf to get a dose of Serum A, which Jean Cowell invented to destroy the werewolf virus. And then, having been cured of the disease that is now ravaging an entire city, possibly being the only holder of the serum since, you know, the lab is in with the man eating monsters, he promptly…
gets himself killed on a tugboat. If you guessed ‘while defending his little pack of stereotypes’, give yourself extra points.
Bestial suffers from an influx and reduction of information. Things the reader should know are given as afterthoughts ,while things they don’t need to know are neatly presented. There is also a plothole one can drive a truck through. A really big truck. Maybe a few trucks all at once.
How, exactly, did an entire city get turned into werewolves?
It is addressed in passing by Rick in the BioGen lab. Christian reveals that a mutated strain of the bacteria in Andrei’s blood is what transformed the city. Rick mentions it traveled by air.
…if this is true, then why was only Cincinnati affected? An air-borne virus, while it doesn’t travel at the speed of light, is certainly more likely to effect a larger population than a disease passed by bodily fluids or even water. In a highly advanced laboratory, how did the strain escape? Wouldn’t BioGen have had some kind of safety measure while dealing with mutated wolf bacteria, like hazmat suits and chemical showers?
Later on in the book a soldier speculates that perhaps the werewolf virus was meant to be used as a weapon by the military. If that’s true, then Carl went about it in entirely the wrong fashion. The military doesn’t perform its chemical weapons experiments in the middle of Ohio. A single infected individual escaping a facility to spread the virus would have made far more sense than an airborne bacteria somehow getting out of a lab. There wasn’t even remotely enough proof for the weapon theory to be viable, and it only came up ten pages from the end of the book. Sloppy, Carl.
Bestial is maybe the kind of book you’d buy for a couple bucks at a sale to make your kid happy because, being a modern parent, you pay no attention to what they read. It is better than Empire if only because the stereotypes do more than just stand around waiting to be eaten by zombies. I stick with my original plea. Permuted Press, for the love of God- stop printing. Get help. There are pills for this kind of thing.