Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter review

    I really enjoyed Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter by Brian P. Easton. It's series of linked short stories that tell the beginning and middle of a werewolf hunter's life. Notably, since there's a sequel (entitled Heart of Scars), it doesn't tell the ending of a werewolf hunter's life. So it's a bit like the History of the World part 1. We're not exactly to the end of the story.

    Unlike most urban fantasy novels, AOAWH is not really about one particular hunt. It's about a lot of werewolf hunts. I applaud the author for this as it made the book feel like I was getting more "bang for my buck" so to speak. The protagonist isn't just a guy who goes on one werewolf hunt, he's a veteran hunter and we get to see how he earned his credentials.

    A few of the hunts are especially noteworthy, including one which took place in a Mexican village that really surprised me with its audacity. Likewise, I enjoyed a hunt involving a werewolf female that put a twist on the usual "sexy female monsters" you see in fiction. By the end of the book, I felt that the protagonist had a long and storied career with potential for future installments down the road.

    A warning for sensitive readers, Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter is a story about a man who fights monsters. Both internal and external. The old Nietzsche quote is especially true as our hero, Sylvester, has to make countless moral compromises in order to fight the enemy. He does not come out of it entirely intact. A major theme is that hatred is a damning and self-destructive emotion, which is brought out by the horrible consequences to his actions.

    The book is also not entirely politically correct, being about a man who grew up in the 1960s and was a Vietnam war veteran on the decidedly Pro-War side. The use of the Vietnam War, I believe, is a parallel to the protagonist's werewolf hunting career in it takes him to dark places without ever really giving him sight of victory. If you're upset about a volunteer soldier from Canada being bitter about the Vietnam War not ending in a victory, this book may not be for you.

    Really, I am grateful the author chose not to shy away from the damning effects of its hero's quest. Not only do people get hurt because of his actions, innocent people do die and they do so because of him. Furthermore, it's questionable if he's entirely in the right to do so. Sylvester makes no attempt to determine if werewolves are evil to the core, he just takes it for a given and proceeds onward.

    Many times, it's driven home our hero is fighting for vengeance and his hatred is blind. It leads him to several rather anvilicious comparisons with other bigots, including the KKK. I admit, coming from the South, I appreciated the KKK being made to look like fools but the book also humanized them to a level I worry some readers will misinterpret. The author notes, explicitly, the KKK is a criminal organization which murders innocents and would kill our hero if they knew his heritage but I'm sure some will worry it's not portrayed evil enough.

    Some other enjoyable qualities I found about the book is that the hero is Canadian, which is rare enough in fiction. I also enjoyed the attention to detail paid to Native American culture as well as New Orleans voodoo. There's a certain element of Hollywoodism to both, but they're both positive portrayals that I enjoyed. Our hero, amusingly, doesn't believe in Voodoo magic and it's ambiguous whether or not there's anything supernatural about it.

    One thing I definitely enjoyed was the "Magical Native American" trope so prevalant in Hollywood is removed. Our hero is partially Cheyenne in his heritage but there is nothing magical about it, it's simply part of his background. Likewise, any training he gets from his full-blooded Cheyenne mentor is explicitly non-magical in nature.

    There's no hints that being partially Native American makes our hero any better a tracker or werewolf hunter.  It's all due to training. I know that's an awfully fine line to walk but I felt a difference between it and stories with similar protagonists. Readers are free to disagree with me on the subject, but I feel it's a deconstruction of the trope.

    Overall, I enjoyed the book. It's a hard, grizzled, and violent book which shows a sometimes unlikable protagonist on a never-ending quest to save the world from a seemingly endless foe. The book doesn't shy away from Sylvester a.k.a Heart of Scar's flaws and that makes the book more interesting to me. I look forward to reading the sequel.


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