Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review: 'Moonbane' by Al Sarrantonio



5/5 Stars

This is a cool book.

On a chilly December night, poet Jason Blake and his son Richie are out in the cornfield near his farmhouse watching a spectacular meteor shower. Some of the meteors are unusually large, and seem almost to be ‘guided’ in terms of their descent; several land in the vicinity of Blake’s property. When he and his son investigate, the meteor turns out to be a small, artificial capsule.

As Blake looks on in astonishment, the pyramid-shaped capsule tears open from within to reveal a miniature werewolf (!) When Richie extends a hand to the mini-werewolf, it promptly bites off several of his fingers (!)

As a frightened Blake carries his son back to the house, the other meteors are revealed as capsules containing yet more mini-werewolves. As they stand in the nurturing light of the full moon, the werewolves soon grow to a height of more than six feet, with gaping, fang-filled mouths and sharp talons (!)

The mature werewolves promptly head for Jason Blake’s farmhouse, and it’s clear that interspecies comity is not on their minds…..

It turns out Earth is under attack by a race of alien creatures: the werewolves of mythology. And with each bitten human condemned to become a werewolf himself, soon the entire world is under siege by growing armies of slavering, homicidal beasts.

Jason Blake undertakes a perilous journey through the monster-filled landscape, one goal in mind: make it to Kramer Air Force base, where a band of scientists have a desperate plan to try and stop the invasion with the aid of the space shuttle……

I’ve read several of Sarrantonio’s short stories, such as ‘The Man With Legs’ and ‘Red Eve’, over the decades in anthologies such as DAW’s ‘The Year’s Best Horror Stories’. I’m not that familiar with his novels, which tend to get mixed reviews at amazon.com.

I can say that ‘Moonbane’ (193 pp., Bantam Spectra, 1989, cover art by Jim Burns) is a very good mingling of horror and sf genres. The book features short chapters and a spare, direct prose style that avoids indulging in the angst-filled character introspectives common to ‘monster apocalypse’ novels. There are plenty of suspenseful moments as the narrator struggles to reach safety with every route endangered by packs of relentless werewolves.

The book’s only weakness is the fact that Blake is a poet; this gives author Sarrantonio opportunities to insert stanzas of bad poems into the narrative every now and then. [The wisdom of having a poet as the protagonist of an sf adventure is not entirely clear to me, but by and large Sarrantonio makes it somewhat believable].

In summary, ‘Moonbane’ is a highly original treatment of the werewolf – wolfman theme, and will be enjoyed by both horror and sf fans.

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

I've heard of Sarrantonio but not this book! Hilarious cover, but I love the premise.