A group of roving suburban lycanthropes struggles to balance order with ferality in this chatty allegory.
The debut novel by Lynn (Theatre and Dance/Univ. of Texas at Austin) is told almost exclusively in dialogue, with the exception of a handful of first-person interludes. This can make it difficult to discern who’s talking to whom in the early pages, but the skeletal plot and declarative chapter titles (“Angel and Susan Make a Plan”) make things straightforward enough: a band of werewolves has been squatting in empty suburban homes, hunkering down long enough to gather food and supplies before police and neighbors get suspicious. Malcolm, the group’s ostensible alpha dog, prescribes careful consideration of the group’s every move, but his authority is challenged by Angel, who has more violent tendencies. Clawing, biting, and worse inevitably ensue, but by werewolf-tale standards, this one is deliberately low on snap and bite and bloodshed. Indeed, though some members of the pack are locked away when they go through a three-day “change,” it’s an open question how much they’re actually changing. The novel is more a study in power dynamics and how, ironically, even wild packs hunger for organization. The dialogue-heavy structure has limits, though. The struggle between Malcom and Angel is relatively inert, and the late chapters’ focus on an exiled member, Bobert, trying to return to the fold feels somewhat digressive. Lynn is strongest when he illuminates the urge to break free from convention in the face of threats. “We’re waking up that part of our brains…instead of waiting for the plague or whatever happens next in history,” one member says. The book is not quite Orwell, but it’s an offbeat glimpse into how resistance to conformity breeds its own kind of conformity. As one of the “rules” puts it, “Eventually everyone will be a werewolf.”
A curious subcultural tale that somewhat successfully rewrites familiar supernatural themes.