I have read a couple novellas by Jonathan Janz, “Exorcist Road” and “The Nightmare Girl,” and enjoyed both of them. I just have not had time to read one of his novels but have been curious to read one of his longer books. Since the novellas were packed with action and energy, I was curious to see if Janz could accomplish this with a novel as well. The impending release of “Wolf Land” in November was all the excuse I needed to crack open a Janz novel and see what terrifying tale he had in store for me this time.
Lakeview may as well be named Dullsville as far as Mike was concerned. He wasted no time leaving the small town, and all of his friends and even his girlfriend, behind when the Chicago Cubs drafted him in the first round. When his pro career ended with a resounding thud before it ever really got started, he still refused to even think about going home. When disaster struck and he killed a teenage girl in a car accident, he still refused what he viewed as the ultimate failure of going back to the small town. With his ten year high school reunion approaching, he finally hits rock bottom and decides to return to the town out of nothing more than desperation. Unfortunately for the town, he brings the tragedy he found in the wide world back home with him in the form of a mythical monster.
A vicious attack at a party costs the werewolf his life but passes along the curse along to several old friends and will change the town forever. When they begin to transform and release their inner beasts, the town falls under a dark cloud of murder and bloody violence. The uninfected begin to realize that there is something more sinister than a simple madman on the loose. Their old friends have become new monsters and are out for blood. When the new werewolves converge on the reunion, Lakeview is going to face the bloodiest night in history as it is transformed into Wolf Land.
“Wolf Land” takes a little while to get off the ground as Janz takes the time to tell the story of the failed baseball career and the ensuing downfall and tragedy that leads Mike back to the small town as well as the group of friends. The novel then kicked into high gear as the werewolf attacks and the lives of the friends are changed forever in a handful of action-packed chapters. The novel then lurches back into low once more as the story slowly develops at a leisurely pace that firmly establishes the characters and the changes that are slowly coming over them but which also caused me to lose interest at times. Janz finally makes up for this, more than makes up for it, with a lengthy climax to the story that is almost nonstop monster action for the last third of the book that had me cringing throughout. Once the action sets in and the monsters start to hunt, there is no stopping this novel and it quickly turns into a great example of just how much fun monster horror can be as the story becomes a bloodbath in which the hunters and the hunted are not clearly defined as the roles are redefined with each chapter and every death.
I like werewolves and there always seems to be a dearth of good werewolf novels but this is the second very good werewolf novel to be released by Samhain Publishing (the other is “Blood and Rain” by Glenn Rolfe) in as many months and that is a very good thing. Janz packs all of the action, violence, and terror of the savage werewolf into something that is unique and a little disturbing. This is not a traditional werewolf tale, although it plays on many of the old tropes, but a story not quite like I have read before. There is the vicious struggle between wolf and man but there is a lot more at play here as the curse of the werewolf does not affect everyone the same. Janz takes the story in an unexpected direction and finds a heart beneath the gallons of blood that are sprayed across the pages. If it were not for having too much filler in the middle of the novel, this would rank among the best werewolf novels of all time. As it is, it still stands above its peers for its last 100 or so pages if nothing else. The novel opens with a small bang but it finishes with an explosion that will have the reader screaming in mixture of terror and joy.
I would like to thank Samhain Publishing and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Wolf Land” is scheduled to be released in November.