Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales
Publisher: Tiny Toe Press / Amazon Digital Service
Page Count: 164 pages
Release Date: 3/10/15
Pick it up here: Thanksgiving for Werewolves.
Disclaimer: I was told I could write a review for this as long as I put up a huge disclaimer. I’m reviewing something not game related (I also reviewed horror book Letters to Lovecraft on here, so why not): the most recent book out by DHGF co-writer ML Kennedy (many months ago, but I’m lazy). We have no financial ties, this is voluntary and not paid for, and I have no financial interest in seeing the book sell well. Please note that there might be personal bias, as I like the author personally, because he’s a great guy and also one of the few other people on Earth that might’ve suffered through as many or more ZOO published games as I have. Call it traumatic bonding. At the same time, I’m a geek for stories, whether in games, movies or books, and if I thought it wasn’t any good I’d say so, because I love stories. I also respect Kennedy enough that I want to be honest about what I think.
Thankfully that’s easy, because I really liked Thanksgiving for Werewolves.
I’m going to break down all the stories individually, but one thing I want to say is that Kennedy has a strong narrative voice. If you don’t know what that means, it’s the individual style an author has through how they write and their use of syntax and diction in their writing, though it’s more than that; it’s better to say it’s an identity and rhythm that’s unique to a writer. Bad writers sound generic, or even worse, boring, even when they’re writing about aliens fighting sharks. Many writers spend their lives trying to sound like another author or trying to find their own writing voice. Kennedy’s, however, carries well through his stories, regardless of length or genre, and it’s more than just how he uses the phrase ‘that thing’, the scattering of pop culture references, or the way he takes a sudden left turn at the end of a story; it’s the way he writes them that feels individual and unique to him. I dig it and am a bit jealous of it.
So, let’s begin:
The cover is simple, looks great and is related to the titular story. Heh, titular.
This is a book of short stories, though two are long enough to be considered novelettes or novellas. The first story is called Dinosaurs vs Cyborgs which, despite the title, features no fighting between dinosaurs or cyborgs. It’s about two girls, one with a lot of knowledge of older sci-fi and horror, talking about monsters and a story one read on the internet about a lizardman. It does a good job of capturing that paranoid feeling where you start second guessing the reality of the world around you, if even for a second. Aside from that it feel more of an experimental piece than a typical short story. Which isn’t a knock against the story, only that it’s about two girls discussing what if certain things like kaiju, werewolves, zombies, etc were real and then get confirmation those things are not real and decide that chicken zombies are stupid. Most of the stories that follow this have werewolves, zombies, vampires and weird shit. I’m not sure if this is meant to intentionally provide a contrast for all the stories that follow or if it’s just a fun coincidence.
After that beginning we get to the largest story in the collection; Thanksgiving For Werewolves. One of the best things I can say about this story is the fact that I read a couple of iterations of this story in various states as a beta tester, and despite re-reading it many times I always enjoyed the story. I missed my bus stop twice because I was drawn in to the point of forgetting my surroundings. I had to walk because of this story and I still like it even though it made me do exercise. However it’s also the kind of story that reaches a niche that’s, well, me, because it’s a story full of were-creatures and a pro-wrestling protagonist. There are a lot of action scenes and they’re written fluidly, both well paced but understandable. It’s the Die Hard of werewolf stories with some humor mixed in. Don’t want to say too much about it and spoil it but I liked it, and my wife liked it, only she likes me so her tastes are suspect at best.
After the longest story in the collection is the shortest one called Ennui. If I write more about it it’ll be longer than the story itself. It’s a bit sad.
Why Wouldn’t You Trust Kyra Cooper follows it. I read a version of this a while back and since then every news story about an increase in some diseases due to anti-vaxxers makes me think about it. While I think this could be a longer zombie book mocking anti-vaxxers this makes the point more directly and a longer tale would probably lose the edge a shorter story has. Fun, funny, and is a biting tale, literally.
Tried To Be a Pied Piper, but ended up a Bridge Troll is the next up to plate. This story uses characters introduced in his prior book, however this story works as a stand alone regardless if you are familiar with the prior book. Three Billy Goats Gruff meets vampires. I dug this one but I liked his previous book too so it’s hard for me to know if those unfamiliar with that work would like this. So I’ll throw my recommendation for that book in here as well, go buy Mosquito Song for 2.99 on Amazon or free on Amazon Unlimited.
A Hair out of Place is weird and gross story that’s like something out of Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes, which is probably why I like it so much.
The one after that is Sally Says… and it’s a story about the danger of not knowing the background of a roommate. Of all the stories in this book this is one I probably have the most personal bias for because Kennedy has one of his characters reading my short story book. That’s some meta-indie author shit right there man. I’d like it anyway because it has the kind of modern mythology vibe of ancient myths and creatures living in modern times and the unintentional fallout they create. I love that sort of thing.
The Unbearable Weight of the Crown takes a detour through the fantasy genre. While some might question adding a story that’s a different genre than most of the rest in the book I thought it was a great addition and I think it shows how well Kennedy can adapt his writing style to different types of story. The story is a playful take on fantasy, taking different tropes within it like prophecies, mercenaries and kings and has a good time with it. I particularly like the mercenary character Bear of the Owls and when the story ended I was almost disappointed, not with the ending itself as with many of the stories it takes a sudden turn at the end which was done cleverly, I was disappointed that the journey with Bear was over already. I hope he writes more story with the character.
There’s a story called Quinquagesima. I couldn’t pronounce that if you paid me to. In it an annoying slob of a man name Karl agrees to housesit for his hot neighbor. In some ways this is probably the most formulaic horror story within the book. The man gets a deal that seems both too easy and too good to be true, strange things happen and build up to the end. It’s well written though, and even though I didn’t like the main character I was still waiting to see what was going to happen because the mystery surrounding his neighbor was interesting and I like the exchange of dialog between Karl and his friend Matt, plus the ending surprised me.
The final story is the I’ll Be Right Back, which I believe was a story he had submitted to a contest and was a finalist for if not winner of. It’s quick, to the point and cuts deep like a scalpel.
The only nitpicks I have is that the format of the different stories can vary wildly, which might be an intentional style choice but it offends my delicate formatting sensibilities. Some stories, like Unbearable Weight of the Crown and Sally Says… left me wanting to know more about the characters introduced and more like introductions to possibly longer tales, or not, I don’t know if he plans on expanding at all on those.
Short Attention Span Summary: A lot of stories and no two nearly the same. Kennedy has a strong narrative voice that makes all of the stories entertaining regardless of length or subject. A great value for a fun collection.