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Curse of the Full Moon edited by James Lowder

Posted by travizzt on September 21, 2010

Could a werewolf anthology send a person howling at the moon? Or would they rather tear this book apart with their teeth? Curse of the Full Moon may just get you in the mood for Halloween.


Curse of the Full Moon edited by James Lowder- This anthology was released in June 2010 and is published by Ulysses Press. There are nineteen short stories written by Jonathan Carroll, William Messner-Loebs, Ursula K. Guin, Gene Wolfe, Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee, S. Carleton, George R. R. Martin, Joe R. Lansdale, Barb Hendee, Michael Moorcock, James Lowder, Peter S. Beagle, Darrell Schweitzer, Matt Venne, Harlan Ellison, Nancy A. Collins, Ramsey Campbell, and Neil Gaiman. The anthology deals with werewolf stories.

“Introduction: Becoming Wolf” by James Lowder- This was very, very interesting. Instead of boasting about the upcoming stories, I was pleasantly surprised to see some history about how the werewolf legend came to be. Also, there is some surprising insight behind werewolves and how they represent situations in real life. It sure got me hyped!

“My Zoondel” by Jonathan Carroll- A man’s friend named Sarah decides to purchase a rare breed of dog that can supposedly tell the presence of a werewolf. When Sarah leaves for a trip, he offers to take care of the dog. After having weeks of enjoyable time with the dog, weird things start to occur.
Criticisms:
1) Short. The story was a little too short. It almost seemed like there should be more, but it just ends.
Praises:
1) Pacing. The pacing of the story is fast, you could probably read it in a few minutes if you’re a slow reader. It never felt too fast, however. In fact, it felt just right as it didn’t really dwell on mundane things, instead it focused more on the important things.
2) Cute. I have to say, the story was pretty cute. It wasn’t horrifying and scary. Instead you have a cute, sweet story about a cute, sweet dog. It really did throw me for a loop.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: The story is short, in an almost bad way. It almost seems like there should have been more. However, due to its shortness, it does read extremely fast and because of that, it was very enjoyable. On top of that “My Zoondel” was surprising by how cute it is, something I didn’t expect from an anthology based on werewolves. Needless to say, I am pleasantly surprised.

“Wolf Train West” by William Messner-Loebs- Two siblings try to hitch a ride on a train heading out West in the early 1900’s. After barely making it on the train, thanks to the help of a tramp, the two settle in for the trip. However, after the tramp tells the children about a story, two railroad bulls drop in and something doesn’t seem quite right about the two.
Criticisms:
1) Memorable. After just reading the story, I am having a hard time really recalling much about it. The story itself is just not very memorable.
Praises:
1) Characters. The characters, however, were pretty good. The two siblings, Grangerford and his sister Patsy, seemed to actually be like children and behaved like they were brother and sister. The tramp, however, stole the show with his mystery. I do want to know more about this person.
2) Action Scene. The action scene at the end was really well written. It was exciting and flowed very well.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “Wolf Train West” isn’t a bad story at all. It’s just not very memorable. I just read the story a few minutes ago and for the life of me I couldn’t really recall a lot, other than the two children, the fantastic tramp, and the action scene.

“The Wife’s Story” by Ursula K. Le Guin- A wife tells a story about her husband and what he is.
Criticisms:
1) Style. The writing style did feel a little odd and read awkwardly at times. I had to re-read a few sentences to make sure of what I read.
Praises:
1) Short. This was a very short story, coming in at only five and a half pages. Usually I would say this is a bad thing, but the story did feel complete at the end and there wasn’t really anything else to elaborate on.
2) Twist. Honestly, I was not expecting a twist, at all. It came as a shock and it was very original. Of course I am not going to give it away, but needless to say it wasn’t something I would have ever expected.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “The Wife’s Story” was a very short story with a pretty unique ending that I never would have expected. The only problem I came across was that some of the sentences didn’t add up and had to be re-read.

“The Hero as Werwolf” by Gene Wolfe- Paul leads a lonely life of seclusion, only going out to find a meal. During one of these trips, Paul comes across an old man and his daughter who we also waiting for the same meal. Paul is smitten by the girl and wants her as his wife.
Criticisms:
1) Confusing. This story is insanely confusing. Every sentence I read I honestly had no idea what was being said. The story itself would be easy to follow if it wasn’t so convoluted and everything was hung up on weird details. Also, I had no idea what the premise of the story was. All I gathered was that Paul was some sort of creature and that’s about it. Anything interesting was quickly lost in this confusing mess.
2) Writing Style. The way the story was writing is a major factor in why it was so confusing. I honestly didn’t follow anything that was happening because it was written so poorly. It just was a pain to read through when everything seemed to be overly described and had a round-about way to say things.
Praises:
There is no major saving grace of the story.
Overall: 1/5
Thoughts: “The Hero as Werwolf” is a confusing mess. The writing style does give you details, but the amount of details leaves everything a vague, confusing mess. I still do not know what the point of the story was.

“Trading Hearts at the Half Kaffe Café” by Charles de Lint- A cartoonist named Mona has a date with a man named Lyle. After Lyle tells Mona that he is a kind of werewolf, the date goes south. As Mona returns home, she realizes that she is being followed. Is Lyle stalker her or is it someone else?
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampered the story.
Praises:
1) Characters. The characters were really interesting. Each character had a different voice and different personality. It almost felt like I was reading two separate stories instead of one.
2) Thrilling. The whole stalker scene was really thrilling and engaging. I was at the edge of my seat waiting to see what Mona and Lyle do.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “Trading Heart at the Half Kaffe Café” was a really great story. The characters were wonderful and likeable. It had humor and suspense, and it kept me easily focused on the story. With the two voices of Mona and Lyle narrating their respective parts, it almost came across as two stories that were merged. It just was all-around enjoyable.

“The Werewolf” by Tanith Lee- Constant and his partner, Vivienne, are walking in a small heath and talking about all the gruesome remains of bodies that are turned up in the heath. Constant is dead set on the murders being the work of a werewolf and the two walk up to a lone house overlooking the heath. Constant, determined that the werewolf is the homes occupant, goes up to the house and asks the man if it would be okay if he takes some pictures of the home, while trying out some tricks to tell if someone is a werewolf. After discovering that the man is indeed a werewolf, Constant has a choice of killing the werewolf or letting it go.
Criticisms:
1) Dialogue. A lot of the dialogue exchanges between Constant and Vivienne seem very unnatural and forced. It reads too properly and the talking points are random in the wording. What I mean is, it doesn’t seem like it would be something a normal person would say to one another.
2) Determination. Why does Constant immediately assume that the homeowner is a werewolf? Now this is before he employs some tricks to determine that the man is a werewolf. I mean, it just seemed sudden and really silly that he would have immediately jumped on the idea of the man being this creature. It just didn’t seem logical.
Praises:
1) Lore. I do like how the lore about werewolves was handled, edited, and created. I never heard about a person who could be a werewolf being distracted by fire, gems, and other glittery things. This was a very interesting idea. Also, the whole silver bullet myth was edited in a way that adds religion and belief to it that made it work. The take on the lore and myth of werewolves was really interesting.
2) Descriptions. The description of the home as well as the werewolf itself was really detailed and vivid. I could picture what the house looked like in my mind with little to no trouble at all. Also, some of the symbolism that the house showed was equally interesting.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: “The Werewolf”is a pretty average story. The dialogue has times where it doesn’t seem natural and causes some awkward and weird conversational topics to arise. Also, it bothered me that Constant jumped to the conclusion that the man was a werewolf. It was rushed and very off-putting. However, I did enjoy some of the added lore and the descriptions were phenomenal.

“The Lame Priest” by S. Carleton- After returning to his cabin from a trip to a village, a man encounters a limping priest heading towards the village. After a few words were spoken between them, the man continues home. As he arrives home, he sees his friend Andrew, an Indian, there and Andrew tells him that the tribe is moving away for a while. After telling Andrew that he won’t accompany him, the man falls asleep only to awake to Andrew gone with a few odds and ends left. As winter settles in, the lame priest shows up at the man’s cabin and the priest tells him to bar the door no matter what until the Indians return. Why would this priest tell him to bar his door and what do the things Andrew left mean?
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampered the story.
Praises:
1) Atmosphere. The story has a wonderfully creepy, suspenseful atmosphere that made my skin crawl at times. The fact that you don’t know what the exact problem is adds to the suspense, rather than taking it away. In some cases, this couldn’t work, but here you kind of have an idea what is going to happen, but at the same time you don’t. The suspense keeps building as the story progresses and ends with a rather frightening and exciting scene.
2) Dialogue. The dialogue, while hard to read at times, added to the suspense. The story was written at the turn of the twentieth century, so the odd sentence structure is understandable. With that said, the way things are talked about adds a sense of the unknown, and is quite fitting with the story itself.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “The Lame Priest” is a very suspenseful and creepy story. This is due to the wonderful atmosphere and the sense of the unknown that the story presents. It’s creepy, it’s scary, and it’s suspenseful. What more would you want from a werewolf story?

“In the Lost Lands” by George R. R. Martin- A knight of Lady Melange comes to Gray Alys to buy his lady the ability to turn into a wolf. Gray Alys tells the knight to come back a month later and he will get his wish. During that month, Alys sends a message out for someone to help her locate a werewolf. A hunter named Boyce shows up and the two leave to hunt one down in the Lost Lands. What Alys finds is more than she expects.
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampered the story.
Praises:
1) Characters. Alys and Boyce were very intriguing characters. Alys at first didn’t really seem to have a personality. She says very little, but because of that she seemed more knowing and uncaring about how things turn out. You get the feeling that she is more than what she appears as well. However, Boyce seemed to be the more developed of the two. He had this likeable personality that seemed to be hiding a deeper secret. I did gather what his secret was (it wasn’t exactly hidden), but it adds something more to his personality.
2) Ending. I really liked how this story ended, and as always I will not spoil anything. It was satisfying and interesting, that’s all I really can say about it.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “In the Lost Lands” was a really good story with some simple, yet interesting characters. The build up to the conclusion was exciting and was even better when it unfolded. The ending was very satisfying.

“The Gentleman’s Hotel” by Joe R. Lansdale- Reverend Jebediah is cursed to hunt down evil by God. Because of this curse the Reverend finds himself in a literal ghost town called Falling Rock and a building called Gentleman’s Hotel. He notices a stagecoach next to the establishment and finds a working girl named Mary in there. After Mary tells him what happened to her, the Reverend understands what he must do. The problem is he has six werewolves and a king werewolf to deal with.
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampers the story.
Praises:
1) Characters. The Reverend and Mary are just wonderful characters. The Reverend is just plain awesome. In fact, while I was reading this I wanted to go watch a Western or go play a video game that takes place in the West. But that’s not what makes Jeb awesome. No, it’s his outlook on his situation. He doesn’t like what he has to do, but at the same time he seems to enjoy it. He’s just a total bad-ass. Mary on the other hand is almost the opposite of Jeb. She’s frightened (and rightfully so!), but can really take care of herself. Also she seems to accept what she is and she goes with the flow. They were just wonderful characters and I really do want to read more about the Reverend.
2) Setting. I loved the setting, just loved it. I don’t read many Western’s but after this, I may have to give them a shot. The story had a perfect feel of the Old West, not to mention the horror that is in this story. It was interesting to see how something like werewolves fit into the Western genre.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “The Gentleman’s Hotel” is my favorite story so far. It has an amazingly awesome main character in Reverend Jebediah Mercer and I just enjoyed the Western setting of the story. The atmosphere was terrifying. The mix of the werewolf genre with the Western genre was just flawless. Honestly, I would have bought this anthology just for this story.

“Full Moon Hearth” by Barb Hendee- A brother and sister living in the middle of the woods to keep people in the town safe of when Raymond, the brother, changes. After living years in fear of her brother during his monthly changes, will she ever feel safe?
Criticisms:
1) Search. Because this point could spoil the plot, I will be as vague as possible. The biggest thing that bothered me with this story is why no one would go searching for the missing people? Do they not care? It would have made an interesting development if something came about do to this.
Praises:
1) Characters. Lisa, the sister, and Raymond were really interesting and deep characters. You can believe that they are siblings and that they both care about one another. You can see that Lisa is scared, yet cares a lot about her brother and those emotions come through clearly. With Raymond you see his inner struggle with what he is and who he wants to be.
2) Terror. You could feel the terror that some of the people in the story feels, especially Lisa. In fact, it’s conveyed so well that I became a little scared during a certain scene.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “Full Moon Heath” is a good story with some great, deep characters. However, something didn’t sit well with me at the end. Why did no one question them? But that is almost easily forgotten due to the characters. The characters and their relationship felt real. It was almost like you may see these people in everyday life.

“Wolf” by Michael Moorcock- A man is searching for someone and is helped by a woman. Only, the man is more than he appears.
Criticisms:
1) Style. I did not care for how this was written. It had a rushed, frantic pace that made things extremely vague and confusing. For most of the story, I couldn’t follow what was going on beyond the actions the characters did.
2) Main Character. I also didn’t care for the main character. It didn’t seem like he had any real motive to do anything other than spout random words and phrases.
Praises:
1) Insanity. Even with the rushed, frantic pacing, the story did have a good sense of insanity that a werewolf would have. It was fitting, only it was poorly executed.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts: “Wolf” was confusing and rushed. The main character wasn’t interesting and added to the confusion. However, everything added to the sense of insanity that the story did have. This sense was good, but it was still lacking.

“Beneath the Skin” by James Lowder- Simon Synge is a hunter of the unnatural and evil. After saving a family by stopping a werewolf and prepping the werewolf pelt to be destroyed, the son is captured by other werewolves. Synge goes to save the boy, by using the pelt, but is he able to not give into the temptation?
Criticisms:
1) End. While it was an interesting ending, it came out of nowhere. The jump from the werewolf battle to Simon talking with someone was sudden and a let down. I would have rather read more about the fight, but even so, the ending wasn’t terrible. It was more awkward and sudden.
Praises:
1) Simon Synge. He was a very interesting character, so interesting that I want to read more stories about him. The past experiences that he talked about really peaked my interest in see these things happen. There is enough mystery and depth to this character that would make anyone want more.
2) Story. The story was really exciting and had the essence of horror in it. Even through the ending did come across as awkward, it still was interesting. It really built up Synge’s character. While the rest of the story does the same, it was undeniably exciting. Even the mundane things like prepping the pelt was thrilling to read about. It was just plain exciting. Through it all, it had an atmosphere that felt like something right out of a Gothic horror novel.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “Beneath the Skin” was an exciting story with a main character that I want more of. The ending may have come across as a little awkward in the transition, but it built up the Simon Synge and made him all the more memorable.

“Lila the Werewolf” by Peter S. Beagle- Farrell’s just now found out that the girl he is living with is a werewolf. Does he go on living like nothing happened or does he do something about it?
Criticisms:
1) Style. The story was written in a way that it comes off as fake. It’s almost procedural from paragraph to paragraph. It was as though you are being told the story rather than experiencing it happen.
2) Characters. The characters were generic and unlikable. Farrell was just lame and never really seemed to care about anything. With Lila, the girlfriend, she seemed to be little more than a plot point.
Praises:
1) Story. While the characters were bland, the story was really interesting. The idea of knowing, or just finding out, that the person you’ve been living with is a werewolf is very interesting. Does this fact affect your relationship, your life, and how you view the world are interesting concepts that were explored.
2) Pacing. The story did go by very quickly, it never hung it self up on little details. It did keep my interested even with the generic characters.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: “Lila the Werewolf” had a great premise, but the characters ultimately let the story down. Aside from that, the way the story was writing came off as through it was someone taking notes on what was happening. However, this does cause the story to go by quickly, without getting slowed by useless information or dialogue.

“The Werewolf of Camelot” by Darrell Schweitzer- A retelling of the King Arthur story involving a werewolf. After seeking out a priest to confess his sins, a werewolf tells of how he served King Arthur and how he was the cause of Camelot’s downfall.
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampers the story.
Praises:
1) King Arthur. I’ve always liked to read re-imaginings of the King Arthur legend, and this story fits it perfectly. While not much has been added, aside from a werewolf, enough was different that it really worked within the legend.
2) Werewolf. The werewolf in the story was a wonderful character. You could really see the world through his eyes and what he was feeling, all the conflicts and uncertainties. He was a surprisingly deep character that you couldn’t help but have empathy towards him.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “The Werewolf of Camelot” was a great story. I, being a fan of King Arthur re-imaginings, am very impressed by how easily the story fits and works within the legend. Also, the werewolf was a character that you can feel what he feels.

“The Brown Bomber and the Nazi Werewolves of the S. S.” by Matt Venne- The Brown Bomber, Joe Louis, is captured while over in Germany during World War II by Heinrich Himmler because of the loss that Max Schmeling had at Louis’ hands. Only, Himmler has a trick up his sleeve to make the Brown Bomber never box again.
Criticisms:
1) Predictable. The only issue the story was that it was extremely predictable. Halfway through the story you knew what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. It’s a bit of a letdown, but not much.
Praises:
1) Pulp. This story had a very pulp feel to it, why wouldn’t it? It works wonderfully though. It was silly, yet never got to the point of being stupid. It just worked.
2) Exciting. Even though the story was predictable, it was an exciting read. The action scene were written wonderfully. It seemed as through I was watching an exciting boxing match.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “The Brown Bomber and the Nazi Werewolves of the S. S.” is an extremely exciting story that was a tad bit predictable.

“Footsteps” by Harland Ellison- Claire is in Paris to try the dinning out. Only what she dines on isn’t what normal folk dine on.
Criticisms:
1) Short. The story wasn’t short in the number of pages, but it felt short. It seemed like there needed to be something more included.
Praises:
1) Claire. She was an interesting character. Through most of the story she acts like she’s on top of everything, controlling everything. However, at the end, she because something that she isn’t, and that change was very interesting.
2) Ending. The ending was kind of shocking. This is due to Claire going from controlling and dominating to fearful and unsure. While the ending was slightly predictable, it still was fairly powerful.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “Footsteps” was an interesting story. It may have felt short, but it still felt right. Claire was an interesting character and what becomes of her at the ending is interesting. I just wish it would have been a little longer.

“Population: 666” by Nancy A. Collins- The town of Limbo in New Mexico is a quiet place of a few people living on their own and off the land. The sheriff, Roy Skinner, helps keep the people safe. However, a foul odor is in the air and the first true threat the town is to face is at hand.
Criticisms:
1) Climax. The climax was an absolute letdown. The final confrontation happened so fast that it was a huge disappointment.
Praises:
1) Characters. The characters in the story are plain wonderful. Roy Skinner was great with his caring nature of everyone in town. Pallida Mors was just plain interesting. She had an interesting past and she’s a character I would enjoy seeing more of.
2) Story. The story was wonderful, aside from the sudden climax. Seeing a town of a diverse group of people helping on another and how they react to what is happening was interesting. It almost felt as through this was a small town.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “Population: 666” was an extremely good story, aside from the sudden and disappointing climax. The characters were great, the build up to the climax was great, and the setting was great.

“The Change” by Ramsey Campbell- A writer is finding it harder and harder to write. What could be could be causing this case of writers block?
Criticisms:
1) Confusing. There were parts of the story that, when read, came across awkwardly. It wasn’t terribly confusing, mostly because you see how the writer’s mind works. But there were some sentences that had to be re-read a few times to gather the meaning.
Praises:
1) Dark. This is probably the darkest story of the anthology. As the story goes on, you see the writer’s mind slowly degrade. You see him change into an entirely different person. Quite honestly, it was a little frightening at times.
2) Ending. The ending is probably the best part of the story due to the writer finally snapping. It makes you wonder what exactly happened to him, but at the same time you secretly don’t want to believe what he did.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: “The Change” is an extremely dark story. There were some confusing and awkwardly put together sentences, that do hamper the tone a bit but not by much. The ending was great and had an ending you know what happened but don’t want to believe it.

“Bay Wolf” by Neil Gaiman- Larry Talbot is a detective hired to find and kill whatever is killing kids off a beach.
Criticisms:
There was nothing major that hampers the story.
Praises:
1) Simple. The story is rather simple and straightforward, and because of this it’s much more enjoyable.
2) Story. The story itself was fun and exciting. It was the kind of story you didn’t have to think to hard about in order to enjoy it.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: “Bay Wolf” is a simple, fun, and exciting story. You didn’t need to think to hard about what was going on in order to enjoy it.

OVERALL AVERAGE ANTHOLOGY: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Curse of the Full Moon was a fantastic anthology. It had a lot of great and interesting stories. Some really surprised me with a few that I would have not have thought about being included in a werewolf anthology. A lot of the other stories were wonderful, adding bits and pieces to the werewolf mythos. It’s a prefect pick up if you want to get into the horror mood, or if it’s close to October and Halloween. Definitely worth picking this anthology up!

Stories Worth Reading:
1) “Trading Hearts at the Half Kaffe Café” by Charles de Lint
2) “The Lame Priest” by S. Carleton
3) “In the Lost Lands” by George R. R. Martin
4) “The Gentleman’s Hotel” by Joe R. Lansdale
5) “The Werewolf of Camelot” by Darrell Schweitzer
6) “Bay Wolf” by Neil Gaiman
Story Best Avoided:
1) “The Hero as Werwolf” by Gene Wolfe

2 Responses to “Curse of the Full Moon edited by James Lowder”

  1. Paul Moran said

    The hero as werwolf. A confusing mess?
    Gene Wolfe repays close reading and the delight is that the prose can always be unraveled. This story is one of my favorites. The humans have become so refined, so rarified, dedicated to pleasure and leisure through genetic modification that the unmodified humans appear feral and wild. The humans has lost their humanity marginalizing the unmodified humans who still eat meat to the fringe and eventually underworld of society.
    Where are the wolves? Where are the dogs? Take the example of the policeman. It is clear from the text that the policeman is a genetically modified animal. Probably a dog, the subservient traits have been retained, the loyalty to the human masters is there and the ability to hunt. There may be no real dogs left. The old man comments that they would have been caught many time ‘had they used real dogs’.
    Paul Gorou is the hero, at one point he doesn’t walk, he trots away from a kill. Loup Garou is French for werewolf.
    This story, is for me, about the loss of humanity, where does animal behavior start and human behavior end? Would you gnaw a loved one foot off to save their life?

    • travizzt said

      Paul,

      With “Hero as a Werwolf”, I never got the same message as you did. I didn’t catch a lot of those references that humans are modified.

      You see, I look for three major things while reading a story.
      1) Is the story understandable?
      I felt that “Hero as a Werwolf” wasn’t.
      2) Is the story fun?
      Yet again, I felt “Hero as a Werwolf” wasn’t. I do remember becoming increasingly frustrated with the prose.
      3) Is this story memorable?
      This point is why I didn’t care for the story. When I was writing the review after reading that short story, I barely recalled anything about the story. That’s not a good thing. “Hero as a Werwolf” never left an impression on me.

      I will say, that if I would have read deeper into the story like you did, I may have liked it a lot more. I try not to read to deeply into the story, else I feel like it loses the ‘fun’ and joy out of reading. If I did that, it would seem like I was still in high school being told what to look for.

      However, now that you bring up a lot of those things, I can see why “Hero as a Werwolf” could be a very good story. I just didn’t feel the same way.

      Thanks for another perspective!

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