Duckie's Reviews > Moon Dance

Moon Dance by S.P. Somtow
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's review
Oct 06, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: where-wolf-there-wolf, indigenous, biblio-bile
Read from September 28 to October 06, 2012

The fact that this book is considered the "Gone With The Wind" of werewolf novels only indicates how low the bar is set for this genre. It's not that there isn't a decent story here - it's that Somtow is an atrocious writer.

The character development is so flimsy I can barely remember their names. About two-thirds of the way through the book a major character is ripped apart by werewolves and I honestly didn't feel anything because I couldn't tell him and his buddy apart. These quibbles, however, pale in comparison to the accents Somtow gives his non-native-English speaking characters. Take a look at these lines from a Russian character speaking English:

"'You have what you want,' Natasha said. 'You have killed Indians, that is greatest desire of your life, is it not?...As for boy, his death is immaterial..."

Yeah. First off, if you're writing for an American audience at any point post-1960, 1) do not name your evil Russian female character Natasha, and 2) do not give her an accent that makes me think of moose and squirrel.

Then there are these lines from a Native American character:

"Although she had learned flawless French from her husband, she had never understood English very well. But she drew herself up as tall as she could and spoke in the pidgin that was the lingua franca among traders, Indians and Chinamen: 'Me wife of Claude Grumiaux. Bring message. Heap important message!"

Holy cultural sensitivities, Batman! Even if Somtow researched this element and found it to be historically accurate, you have to be very careful how you present something like that. You have to be a very, very good writer to work something like that into your novel without making it sound like a farce. And Somtow is not that writer. It's not even relevant to the plot, so he could have (and should have) just left it out.

As for the "splatterpunk" appellation often given to this novel, I can only assume it refers to the ghastly way Somtow butchers the English language. Take a look at these passages:

"The head of an old man - she knew it was Andrew Raitt, a watchmaker - lay in the mud at the boy's feet. The morning sunlight, smoke-dappled, illumined his face; wordlessly, in time to a sourceless music, he began to move slowly in a circle, his eyes closed."

I spent five minutes trying to figure out why/how the head was dancing before I figured out Somtow was referring to the boy. And then there's this:

"A child screamed. It's mother's eyes had been shot out."

There's nothing so horrifying as bad grammar. That should be "its," Somtow. I'm paying you for your work, here. I expect you to know how to write.

For all its failures, and they are legion, the novel does have one positive attribute. Somtow has done his research on wolves, at least based upon the scientific information available at the time. There are multiple references to the peculiar stare wolves sometimes give their prey, where it appears they are asking the prey's permission to take its life. This has been mentioned in other works published prior to this one. So a round of applause to you, Somtow, since it seems that here at least you did your homework.

As for the rest of the novel, I leave you with the closing line from this epic masterpiece of werewolf literature:

"Eat my shit! Smell my piss! I am the queen!"

I think we're done here.
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