Bad Moon Books
Trade Paper, 192 pages, $15.00
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Gore and sensitivity may seem mutually exclusive, but in Everything Howls by Christopher Lopez they coexist compatibly. Lopez ladles on the graphic violence, but balances the gruesome imagery with deft penetration into the minds of his characters. There are scenes that wrench the stomach and interactions which warm the heart. This is a dichotomy that doesn’t emotionally disconnect. The author maintains an effective equilibrium.
In the small town of Keme, something supernatural is afoot. But it isn’t Bigfoot; it’s another legendary monster: The wendigo. The creature has been tackled before in horror fiction, most notably by renowned writer Algernon Blackwood. In Lopez’s take on the entity, a hamlet is paralyzed by a winter whiteout. Townspeople are reported missing, and when they are found certain pieces (of them) fall into place. Relationships between family members, friends, and lovers, get tested and frequently severed. The wendigo can possess a body, using it as a vessel to feed on live flesh. Sort of like the alien in The Thing, it lodges within a host and commits horrible acts of carnage. Local sheriff Aaron Bishop is at sea as to how to deal with the murderous rampage, but luckily there’s a sage Native American (what would we do without them?) to give advice.
Bishop, a widower, has forged friendships in his late wife’s hometown; loyalties that have stood the test of time. As coziness of community and precious bonds get savaged, the lawman reflects on loss. What was familiar and safe is viciously violated. No one can feel secure.
Psychological scrutiny is coupled with detailed depictions of hideous attacks. When a local little old lady’s remains are discovered, it isn’t pretty: “What remained of Mrs. Valentine’s body was savagely mutilated and drenched with blood. Her housecoat lay around her in tatters. Her head was gone, nowhere to be found in that grisly tomb. Just beneath where it should have been, her neck hung open, a large chunk torn from its side. The sinewy cords rested flaccid on the pillow beneath. Barbarously grained flesh lined the perimeter of the gaping hole and the edge of what had been the old woman’s jaw line. Frayed arteries straggled out beyond, pooled in their own spilt and congealing cargo.”
Everything Howls allows the blood to flow freely, but never loses sight of the intricacy and delicacy of relationships. This is a first novel that exhibits an understanding of good story telling. Christopher Lopez wisely blends insight into the explicit.