Posted on June 2, 2008 by Flames
Bestial by William Carl
Permuted Press 2008
When I finished reading Bestial, the first thing I thought was, ‘This was everything a zombie novel should be.’ This is rather strange, considering that the book I’d just read had been chiefly concerned with werewolves.
I had certain expectations when I started reading this, a werewolf novel. There would be grisly deaths every full moon, of course. There would most likely be a small town where everyone seems to know each other, which would lead to drama as everyone became a suspect. There would be a bloody shootout towards the end, with the beast being killed by a silver bullet. The true culprit would come as a surprise to the terrified townsfolk, but not to me, the reader. I would have seen it coming after the first few chapters.
Truth be told, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading this. Werewolf novels just don’t do anything for me. The creatures themselves are interesting and great for symbolism, but the plots they usually get caught in… not so much.
Imagine my surprise when the novel started with a bank robbery, which is sabotaged by one of William Carl’s truly disturbing monsters. But, wait, where was the pleasant town? Why are we being shown the monster straight away? Aren’t we supposed to be ‘kept in the dark’ for the first hundred pages or so?
No, not with this novel. These werewolves are much more like zombies, in that they’re out there, they’re out for blood, and there are thousands of them. It’s an interesting twist on the trope, which works out surprisingly well.
The similarities between these werewolves and zombies irked me in the beginning. After all, weren’t these just zombies with fur and maybe more aggression? What was going to set this book apart from other post-apocalyptic fiction?
Characterization, it turned out. Not only are the survivors interesting, strong, flawed individuals, but we get a glimpse at the human side of the monsters: the victims transform into beasts three nights in a row, but are forced to live with themselves during the daylight hours.
Not only that, but the survivors are forced to deal with them. Although this novel is set up to be a few hundred pages of gore, violence, and action, there’s much more to it. Yes, there is plenty to satisfy those out for an action-packed read, but the main draw of this novel is the glimpse it grants the reader of the parts of the human mind we rarely see: both the dark and depraved side, but also the parts of what makes us human that we can be proud of.
This novel is much more than just another werewolf novel. Fans of thoughtful spec fic and post-apocalyptic mayhem alike should make sure they get their hands on a copy of Bestial. It won’t disappoint.
Review by Leah Clarke