C.'s Reviews > Bestial: Werewolf Apocalypse

Bestial by William D. Carl
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Jul 15, 2012

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** spoiler alert ** The apocalypse is big business. Through movies and books, we’ve seen the end of the world come from vampires (I AM LEGEND), zombies (Romero’s LIVING DEAD series, the RESIDENT EVIL series), natural disasters (NIGHT OF THE COMET), robots (TERMINATOR: SALVATION), and pretty much anything else you can imagine. You don’t hear much about the end of the world being brought about by werewolves, though. It’s an interesting idea, one that, having read the synopsis in the back of another Permuted Press book, prompted me to buy this one, William D. Carl’s BESTIAL.

Taking place over three days in September in Cincinnati, BESTIAL tells the story of four survivors--seemingly the only people in town not infected with whatever this virus might be. Rick is a bank robber who is holding up the bank where Chesya work when everyone in the place--except our robber and our teller--are suddenly on the ground, writhing and changing, turning into huge snarling beasts that could be the product of a wolf-bear coupling. They seal themselves in the bank vault for the night and the next day set out in search of answers.

Christian is a teen runaway who’s been living on the streets for months when, safe inside his abandoned warehouse where he’s sleeping in an old elevator, he hears the world outside start to fall apart as the werewolf apocalypse strikes.

Meanwhile Cathy Wright, Christian’s mother, is lying in bed with her husband, Karl, when the man wakes, transforms, and runs off into the night, leaving Cathy holed up in the master bathroom until morning.

Over the course of these three days, our characters try to survive the collapse of society as the poor souls who’ve been infected by night find themselves unable to cope by day. Many commit suicide, some simply succumb to the more bestial nature they’ve discovered inside themselves.

While living on the streets, Christian sometimes made it from day to day by selling himself to older men. One in particular, Jean, has been trying to get Christian off the streets altogether, but the teen doesn’t want that kind of commitment. But he does try Jean’s fancy apartment the morning after the first outbreak. It’s empty, but then he remembers Jean talking about some kind of experiments he was conducting at work. Jean was (he’s one of the resulting suicides) a scientist for Bio-Gen, a fancy scientific outfit situated, apparently, in the middle of town.

It’s at Bio-Gen our characters all come together, and discover, held prisoner in the facility, Andrei, a Soviet citizen and all-around werewolf. Jean had discovered the man’s ability and wanted to cure him, as well as prevent anything like the holocaust from ever happening again. No, I’m not sure how curing a werewolf prevents the second holocaust, but bear with me and you’ll see there was much in BESTIAL that didn’t quite compute.

The gist of the story is that whatever virus it is in Andrei’s blood that turns him into a wolf creature for three days a month has been airborne and was released into the Cincinnati air. By accident, one hopes. These four people are immune to the virus, however, while everyone else in town is a ravening beast by night and savage manimal by day. The army is stationed just on the other side of the river, but they’re shooting anything and anyone who tries to cross. Keep the contamination in the city, that’s what they say. So how do our heroes get the vaccine, which Jean was developing, into the right hands without getting inadvertently shot?

Good question. The answer is a very action-packed and detailed climax with lots of fire and werewolves and guns and death.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save BESTIAL.

Man alive, I wanted to dig this book. The synopsis was awesome, I thought, and piqued my interest enough to shell out the $15, but almost from the beginning I realized this was an author not yet 100% comfortable with his own style.

“Help me, please! I hear you out there. Please, help me!” The cries sounded raspy, indicating that the screamer had been calling out for some time. There also seemed to be an accent to the words. Russian, Serbo-Croatian? Christian wasn’t sure, but the man’s hard consonants, like his C’s and K’s, contained a harsh vibrato; his vowels seemed to be drawn out, spoken in broader tones.

Color me confused, but I didn’t see any C’s or K’s in “Help me, please! I hear you out there. Please, help me!”, so this passage just comes across as sloppy and not well-thought-out.

Another con was the characterization. Of the four main characters, not a single one of them rang true to me, at all at all. Through everything happening to and around them, they simply didn’t act like you would expect someone to act. Granted, with a werewolf apocalypse a thing found only--so far--in fiction, who’s to say how one would really react, but I have a strong suspicion it wouldn’t be like this:

“No,” she answered. “I’m just telling you that you’re being a baby about it. ‘Poor me, I turned into a monster.’ In case you didn’t notice, I was the one you tried to kill. I was the one who was almost a victim here. You’re going to try to eat me again. Don’t deny it, Karl. I don’t want it to happen, so I’m being pro-active.”

He looked at her a moment, and the creases in his forehead lessened, then vanished. His hand stopped its incessant circling motion against his leg.

“I’m an a**,” he mumbled.

And later,

“I know, honey,” he said, whining. “I know. It’s just . . . degrading.”

“You want to know what’s degrading? Having to sit across from you, listening to you talk about drinking blood and chasing prey through the streets, and acting as though it were the normal thing to do nowadays. I had to be a good wife. I couldn’t turn away from you in revulsion, because a good wife doesn’t do that. She supports her husband. I’ve supported you before, if you remember. But this good wife wants to be here in the morning.”

“I’m a jackass.” He looked sheepish, younger than his years.

“Yes, you are,” she said, kissing him on the forehead. “Now, let’s get you locked up safe and sound.”

Aw, jeez, Wally, stop giving me the business!!! Really? Wow.

And last, but not least, was logic. See, I can deal with crappy characters, because I’m antisocial anyway and would barely know the difference. But when logic flaws shine through, I like to think I notice.

The news anchor droned on. “I’ve just been handed an update. Police officials have contracted several tow-truck companies to clear the streets. If you have an automobile parked or trapped in traffic, please find the car and remain near it. If an owner is with his or her car, they will not tow it to storage. If your car is towed, it will be safely stored in a nearby field or yard. Your local police station will have details as to which cars went to which holding place. It may take several days, but the roads will soon be clear of debris. Authorities also wish to warn that if you have family, keep them near at all times. The police highly recommend that you do not wait with your car through the day. If you have an automobile trapped in traffic, it will be towed to a safe area, and you can reclaim it when officials decide it is safe.”

Wait, didn’t they just say “find the car and remain near it”? Make up your mind. Also, much is made of how the power has gone out and there’s no electricity, yet when Rick and Chesya find an open bar down the street, they close themselves inside and watch the news on television.

On day two, a hotel collapses, apparently the result of a car crashing into the side of it. Seriously? That’s the apex of Cincinnati architecture when a highrise hotel collapses because a car crashed into the corner of it? That’s gonna promote tourism in Cincinnati! If I ever have to go to Cincinnati, it’s only single-story motels for me!

It’s such a waste when a book with such an original premise, something that should been totally awesome, falls flat and leaves me so incredibly disappointed. And, as is usual in these cases, it’s not the story’s fault, just the result of bad writing. God, I hate bad writing. Bad writing has the same effect as bad acting in an otherwise good movie; you want so badly to see how things turn out, but holy God, getting to the end is such a chore.

That was the case with BESTIAL. I liked the idea of the story, but the execution was just . . . wow . . . not up to snuff, not even a little bit. Books like BESTIAL are the reason the rejection letter with editorial comments was created. This book definitely needed another 2 or 3 edits, at least, before it was ready for mass consumption.

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