I first got to know Donald Armfield as a sergeant in the Bizarro Brigade, so I knew that whatever he sent me to read wasn't going to be your average,...moreI first got to know Donald Armfield as a sergeant in the Bizarro Brigade, so I knew that whatever he sent me to read wasn't going to be your average, run-of-the-mill, mainstream bit of fiction. I expected it to be a bit strange, to toy with some taboos, and to dispense with any sort of rigid narrative structure.
Well, The Alpha Wolf Bent Me Over is pretty much exactly what I expected, the literary equivalent of an 80s slasher flick, but with the sex gratuitous and the violence suggestive, rather than the cinematic reversal.
Miranda is a sexually frustrated virgin, the kind of good girl who usually finds herself at the centre of these tales. Her best friends are a pair of sexually liberated twin girls, so exaggerated in their promiscuity that they'll sleep with anything that moves - including one another. Much of the story revolves around the sisters expressing themselves, leaving Miranda's frustrations to mount alongside them.
Eventually, we get to the heart of the tale, a campfire urban legend about an Alpha Wolf who stalks the woods, looking for a young virgins to abduct and abuse. There's an old diary, found buried in the dirt, to corroborate the tale, along with the standard sole survivor who came back to tell the tale of those who had gone missing before her. Where the twist comes in is that, instead of cowering in their cabins, terrified of the big bad Alpha Wolf, Miranda decides to don her best little Red Riding Hood outfit and traipse off into the woods, looking for it.
Perverted, and deliberately over the top, The Alpha Wolf Bent Me Over is an interesting read for anybody who watched those 80s slasher flicks and groaned every time the camera panned away from the 'good parts'.
Alternately violent and comic, with a subversive sort of satiric spirit, Stars and Other Monsters is a most unusual vampire tale. It almost feels like...moreAlternately violent and comic, with a subversive sort of satiric spirit, Stars and Other Monsters is a most unusual vampire tale. It almost feels like a Bizarro novella at times, when Phronk really rides the narrative edge, but it never quite crosses the line, remaining absurd but entirely accessible.
Where else can you find David Letterman, a down-on-his-luck paparazzi, a vampire cougar, an extraordinary clever dog, a celebrity hottie with a taste for the dark arts, and a homeless man who is not nearly as crazy as he appears? The story starts simply enough, with Stan Lightfoot sitting in his car, waiting for the aforementioned David Letterman to kiss, hug, or otherwise hold the woman with whom he's been having an affair. It's the photo that will make his career, and he's a press of a button away from capturing it when his car is bumped from behind . . . and Letterman is obliterated by the car that did it.
Taking the driver's advice to get out before the police can come is probably the worst decision Stan has ever made, but it isn't until later than night that he discovers why. It seems the kindly driver was actually a vampire, blinded by the sun, and she wants his help tracking down Damien Fox, the celebrity hottie upon whom she's developed an immortal crush. If Stan doesn't help her, she'll kill him and his dog. If he does help her . . . well, she still plans to eat them, but at least it may buy him time to escape.
What follows is a very odd sort of buddy road-trip story, as they two make their way across America, with Stan keeping the dog's directions as vague as can be. It's quite funny, and almost romantic at times (in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way), but then it gets very dark when we discover the truth about Damien Fox and his plans for his pregnant girlfriend. There vampire hunters are a nice touch, simple bodyguards outfitted with pseudo-scientific gadgets by the crazy homeless man, and his true identity turns out to be a genuine surprise, and one that brings Stan's story full-circle.
The climactic battle in Wal-Mart, with Dalla creating a make-shift army from the late-night shoppers, is definitely the high point of the story, with everything coming together in a grand finale that pays off in more ways than one. Without spoiling the fun, there's even an appearance from a certain celebrity guest star to help save the day. It's a very bloody, very violent, sometimes cruel story, but one that is also very funny - ranging from satiric snark to slapstick absurdity. Stars and Other Monsters is just that, a story of stars and monsters, but neither one may be who you expect.