BOOK REVIEW: “The Howling” by Gary Brandner (1977)

I’ve seen the ’80s movie adaptation for Gary Brandner’s famous novel a number of times and have always enjoyed it a great deal, so I decided to read the novel for the sake of comparison, and while the two are very different (and I would argue that the movie is superior), this is still a pretty solid little page turner. Mind you, it’s a shame that Brandner has a tendency to write his female characters with his dick, because there’s very little character development in particular when compared to how much time he spends physically describing women – there are also a number of horny passages that are tiresome and rather icky (it seems like Brandner doesn’t know much about female arousal), not to mention an unnecessarily graphic rape that goes on for several pages. But if you can get past that, the rest of the novel is a solid little number. It’s a breezily written genre entry that’s dated in some ways (like the aforementioned, uncomfortable horniness) but Brandner has a knack with atmosphere: The characters are effectively isolated from safety, with the ever-growing threat of werewolf attacks getting closer to them each night, and by the time the horror finds its way inside the house, the scene is set for a terrific and impressively nerve-wracking climax with a nice twist. The twist is telegraphed if you’ve seen the movie, but it still works here because there’s a sort of naivete of Brandner’s part that has a lot to do with the under-representation of werewolf lore in popular culture in the late ’70s, which gives the author some leeway with his denouement reveals. So, in the end, it’s a solid late-night page turner that concentrates too much on sexuality here and there but is overall a good read for genre fans looking for something uncomplicated but effective.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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