BOOK REVIEW: “The Howling II” by Gary Brandner (1979)

Other than this and its predecessor, I haven’t read anything else of Gary Brandner’s oeuvre but I really wish he would write with his brain instead of a different organ south of the border. I mean, he’s got a real knack with a page-turning narrative: Here, the plot follows original heroine Karyn as she attempts to recover from the traumatic events of the first novel only to be targeted once again by the same cabal of werewolves, this time out for revenge as they gradually attack her loved ones one by one. It’s a perfectly serviceable, adequate storyline for a horror sequel, and it also manages to delve a little into the mystical background of the werewolves themselves without getting lost in too much detail… but what ends up marring the experience is Brandner’s mindless, relentless horniness. There’s not a single female character that’s not somehow sexualized for one reason or another, with long diatribes about their nipples, pubic hair and ever-present arousal, and it gets really old, really fast. In general, Brandner doesn’t seem to have much interest in women as characters, primarily defining them by their physical attributes, their reactions to the men they’re attracted to as well as their romantic rivals, and by the climax he’s entered into full-on misogyny: How the denouement is set up literally depends on a female character behaving with zero common sense out of jealousy over another woman, plus an out-of-nowhere lesbian sex scene that completely saps the narrative’s momentum. (And I haven’t even talked about the casual domestic violence Brandner throws in for good measure). So, I dunno, I’m torn (hehe like some of the characters end up): On the one hand, I recognize that it’s a product of its time and Brandner clearly had some lazily problematic ideas about women, but I also recognize that the book is otherwise really good. If I did half-stars I’d probably cap it at a three and a half, but since I don’t I’ll go with four stars… but with the caveat that its attitude towards women are retrograde to the point of ludicrousness.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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