**spoiler alert** As part of my MFA program, I’m taking a class on monsters in the horror genre. I read Cycle of the Werewolf as an assignment for tha**spoiler alert** As part of my MFA program, I’m taking a class on monsters in the horror genre. I read Cycle of the Werewolf as an assignment for that class, and the below essay/review is part of that assignment.
For me, the most fascinating thing about this story is that it's a fairy tale in wolf's clothing (pun intended). It made me think of something Neil Gaiman wrote: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." (Gaiman, Neil, and Dave McKean. Coraline. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Kindle file.)
When a Beast terrorizes the small town of Tarker's Mills for a year, an underdog saves the day. Marty, a kid in a wheelchair, is Cinderalla locked in her room and forbidden from going to the ball. With the exception of his uncle, no one believes Marty is capable of anything worthwhile. Throughout the book, we are treated with other characters' comments and musings about the fact that Marty is in a wheelchair. Even Marty's father, a physical education teacher, thinks his son is helpless. "Marty makes Herman Coslaw a little nervous. Herman lives in a world of violently active children, kids who run races, bash baseballs, swim rally sprints. And in the midst of directing all this, he would sometimes look up and see Marty, somewhere close by, sitting in his wheelchair, watching. It made Herman nervous …" (King, Stephen. Cycle of the Werewolf. New York: New American Library, 1985. 61. Print.)
When Marty claims the Beast is a werewolf, Constable Neary waves off this warning, saying, "Kid heard a lot of these werewolf stories in school before it closed for the summer—he admitted as much—and then he didn't have nothing to do but sit there in that chair of his and think about it" (King 78). Despite the fact that no other person survived seeing the Beast, Neary disregards Marty's story because Marty is in a wheelchair.
I think it's especially interesting that Marty has read about werewolves previously. As put by another author: "Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." (Chesterton, G. K. "The Red Angel." Tremendous Trifles. Packard Technologies. Kindle file.)
Perhaps it was reading about werewolves that prepared Marty to deal with the horror of coming face to face with one. Marty isn't afraid of the Beast. After being attacked on the Fourth of July, "Marty Coslaw came to believe in his heart that it had been the best Fourth of all" (King 71). Just like a fairy tale hero, Marty had "a clear idea of the possible defeat of the bogey" (Chesterton). Marty tempted the Beast by sending letters to the Beast's human counterpart. Having read about werewolves, Marty acquired silver bullets and prepared to be hunted. In the end, he kills the Beast.
Constable Neary is the opposite of Marty. He believes the Beast is a human who he'll capture with "good police-work" (King 80). Neary doesn't believe in werewolves—or dragons or bogeys. He also doesn't believe in Marty's capability. As a result, like the stepsisters in Cinderalla and Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Neary learns his lesson the hard way. But instead of having his eyes pecked out by birds, or being made to serve his stepsister—as in some versions of Cinderella—Neary meets his end at the hands of the werewolf.
On a side note, King all but ignores the actual lunar cycle, and he admits as much in the book's Afterword. The wolf comes out every full moon, including Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July, and New Year's Eve of the same year. This isn't actually possible, but I admire King's willingness to take artistic license. Plus, I'm a little entertained that he took this liberty. After all, this is speculative fiction, so let's speculate.
I really enjoyed this story, especially because it made me think of fairy tales. But I doubt Disney will make an animated movie of it anytime soon. My copy of the book includes illustrations by Berni Wrightson, and they were a nice touch....more
Sarah Pinborough's Breeding Ground had great potential for me, because it involved spider-like creatures. It's funny that it would be assigned as readSarah Pinborough's Breeding Ground had great potential for me, because it involved spider-like creatures. It's funny that it would be assigned as reading in a class about monsters when I often refer to spiders as mini-monsters. Spiders are hairy and leggy, with pincers and many eyes, and they hunt and eat other creatures, trapping them in sticky webs. "If they were bigger," I've often said, "they would eat you."
My point is twofold: (1) Spiders are a great subject for a horror novel. And (2) I may be slightly arachnophobic.
There were a lot of things I liked about Breeding Ground. From page one, there was the feeling of impending doom, and the later story and quick pace did not disappoint. The author created some brilliantly horrific images with her words. Some of my favorites include:
The white strands that had characterised the widow's bite on his arm were working inwards from the corners of his eyes, appearing from within the socket, clinging to the slippery surface, twisting miniature versions of the thick coils that had been draped across the pub, each thread reaching out for another on the opposite side of his eyeball. (Pinborough, Sarah. Breeding Ground. New York City: Leisure, 2006. 276-77. Print.)
He was shaking again now, his head distorting, and as the scream rose to almost a whistle the flesh of his cheeks and throat finally gave way, hard shiny black legs forcing their way through, ripping at him, tearing the life from him, aggressively bursting into the world. (p. 332)
Spiders. Ugh! *shudders*
One of the things I didn't love about Breeding Ground, on the other hand, is that it tried to be science fiction in addition to horror. Every so-called scientific explanation given ripped me out of the story a little bit more.
(view spoiler)[First, the widows came into existence because of scientists playing with hormones in food. As a result, the spider-like widows grew inside human females. A complex, intelligent species with psychic abilities came into existence due to modified food … I cannot suspend disbelief.
In yet another attempt to explain things with science, a doctor claims that, because all the widows evolved from human women, "[l]ogic would therefore dictate that they're female spiders" (p. 323). Say what? In this world, apparently, only women can be born of other women, because logic. However, this gives way for the author to introduce new, male spiders toward the end of the book. In hindsight, this unbelievable version of science seems to exist to allow the author to up the stakes at the end of the book.
Last and definitely not least, the blood of deaf people (and deaf dogs) acts like acid when it touches the widows. In this world, the deafness of all encountered humans and dogs is caused by a single genetic defect, which just happens to cause the blood to behave like acid. I may have rolled my eyes a bit (meaning a lot) when the characters figured this out. (hide spoiler)]
Sometimes, the genesis of a monster or other being of horror can add to the fear factor. Other times, the mystery—the lack of knowing—can be a good thing. That unknown can keep a reader up at night thinking that the horror she read about can happen at any moment. In this case, the scientific explanations only managed to increase my level of disbelief. I wish the author had left that a mystery.
In short, while Breeding Ground wins at horror, it fails at science fiction.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more