Posted on March 16, 2010 by Steven Dawes
Available at DriveThruSciFi.com
Written by Alex Irvine
You may recall that I’ve received a couple of reviewer books based on the “Supernatural” TV series to shoot my way through (if you don’t recall or you just didn’t know, you can click here to read all about it.) If you do, then you may also recall that I was disappointed with my first contestant and was concerned that the WB exec’s had sold out with gusto to earn a quick buck on some lame books at the expense of the fans and their beloved show. Well, I’m happy (and relieved) to report that my second foray into the book series was better than the first. But then again, that’s not saying a lot.
I was sorta jazzed about reading “thee” coveted journal of papa Winchester. I could imagine all sorts of potential and information that could be contained within these pages. I mean, this journal has been pivotal to the hunky Winchester duo since episode 1; it’s just GOT to have a lot of goods worth reading, right? Am I right? Well, I was sorta right. This book is a mixed mojo bag to be sure. So lets open the bag and see what’s inside, shall we?
The good mojo? There are plenty of references to main events, places and people from the show. While they don’t really add any news insight for the fanatical fans, the casual and newbie fans may find some of the details from John’s point of view interesting. Quite a bit of it was told in a prequel fashion and included some interesting anecdotes about the Winchester boys growing up with their dad and his growing obsession to find and kill the yellow eyed demon. Being told through John, he has sincere moments of realization about how “the family business” has robbed them of a childhood and a place to call home. A hunter’s life is full of driving, research, greasy spoons, hotels and hunting the supernatural. Sure some of this seems obvious, but it was interesting to read all the same.
But what I found even more interesting was the OVERWHELMING amount of random trivia on a variety of religions, alchemy, the occult, demons, monsters, haunted locations, various theologies, methods of protection from evil and more. As a lifelong paranormal enthusiast, an armchair occult historian and a former manager of a ghost hunting group, I’ve come across a lot of occult trivia and information in my life time. And yet I’m still impressed by the amount of obscure details that I’d never heard before that author Alex had dug up and crammed in. For those interested in historical trivia of the paranormal / supernatural, the price for this book is most justified. Nice work on this portion Alex!
(Sigh), and now the bad mojo. First off, there wasn’t enough original material for the diehard fans that would be the most likely peeps to purchase this book. As mentioned before, there’s plenty of info that correlates to events in the show, but the material really didn’t go much farther than this. Throwing salt in the wound, what scraps were added didn’t really feel very “John” like to me. In the show he’s shown as capable, brave, tough as nails and ready to die for his family (which he eventually does.) But in his scribes here, he comes off as haunted by memories and uncertain of his situation and his raising the boys, he’s whiny, and seems to keep wanting to try to escape his past while keeping a single-minded (even obsessive) search for the yellow eyed demon. Why was so much material given on this angle only? And why was he constantly rehashing the same thoughts year after year? Why not include more info on the culture of the hunter’s life? Why not include more on the hunters he worked with? Why wasn’t there more info on the yellow eyed demon? Why did he believe this guy was a demon and yet he refused to believe in “demons” as much as he did “angels” in the first place?
The other issue I have with the book is a double edged sword. While I really enjoyed reading into all the supernatural/paranormal trivia and history notes, some of it was presented in a way that didn’t make much sense to me, or it wasn’t explained well enough, or lacked any organization or proper perspective. I understand that this is a journal and you write things in as you go, and that’s fine with me. But if you’re going to note something, you should put them in a sensible context.
For example, the first entries in the year 1991 were two lists, under “DAY” and “NIGHT”. The list goes into a dozen foreign words, and these words are numbered 1 through 12 (coincidentally, later on you’ll read about the theological significance of the number twelve). No explanation or annotation was given as to what these words are used for or where and when they come into play. I read the rest of the book, hoping for some answers as to what this list is about amongst other equally confusing notes, but no such luck. In the end they are worthless notes thrown in as filler, taking space that could have been used for either trivia than made sense of more journal entry opportunities from papa John.
So in the end, I’m not sure who to recommend this book to. This book would have been better serves being split into two books with more information in each. However, for the theology & occultist enthusiast and fans of the supernatural & paranormal who don’t mind digging around a journal to find the random trivia, this one is for you. There’s a LOT of occult material here that’s not easily found and almost seems excessive, and yet it was welcome as these notes were more interesting than the journal entries themselves. It might even be great reference book for the Supernatural RPG game; I’ve never seen the RPG to know what info it contains on the subject so I can’t be sure.
But on the other hand, the lack of original information about the Winchester’s themselves only allows it to be interesting to the casual and new fans looking to learn a little more about the Winchesters and their life growing up with a vengeful minded father. The lack of original material on the characters just screamed wasted opportunity to me. And I’d also be willing to bet my last bag of beef jerky that the casual fan won’t give two hoots about all the trivia I that found so interesting.
So there’s my paltry opinion on this one, it’s a mixed bag that didn’t know if it wanted to be a sourcebook on the occult or a journal about the life of John Winchester.
Review by Steven Dawes