The Mammoth Book Of Wolf Men – Book Review

The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men – The Ultimate Werewolf Anthology. Edited by Stephen Jones. (Robinson 2009.)

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What are the chances of another Mammoth book in as many weeks, huh?! To say that I am obsessed with werewolves would be the understatement of the century, so, when I randomly came across this gem, it threw itself into my arms and I couldn’t say no. Now, despite being proved wrong by the last Mammoth book I read (which I thoroughly enjoyed) I did have some reservations about the measure of quality that I would find between the pages. But I ploughed on regardless, adamant that I would learn something new about  lycanthropy and how to craft a unique horror story. The short, yet well informed introduction quelled my fears and launched me headfirst and smiling into the anthology.

The first tale, ‘Twilight at the Towers’ (considered to be a modern masterpiece) by Clive Barker didn’t grab me. To be honest, I was bored stiff by the end of the first page and skipped to the next story ‘The Dream of the Wolf’ by Scott Bradfield. Now this, I have to say, is my favourite tale in the collection. Larry Chambers’s life is ruled by his dreams, in which he becomes various sub-species of wolf.’

“Last night I dreamed I was Canis lupus tundarum, the Alaskan tundra wolf,” Larry Chambers said, confronted by the hot Cream O’ Wheat, one jelly donut, black coffee with sugar. “I was surrounded by a vast white plain and sparse gray patches of vegetation . I loped along at a brisk pace, quickening the hot pulse of my blood. I felt extraordinarily swift, hungry, powerful…”

His fixation creates a tight, intense story, which as it progresses, becomes almost suffocating – in a good…wait, great way. I felt, in many ways, that I could relate to Larry, in that my obsession with the North is all consuming. Though with me, I see it as a good thing. (I decided a long time ago that I was dedicating my life to Northern Studies and I couldn’t be happier about this fact.)

This anthology isn’t all it says on the cover though. There are tales of shape shifters who transform into creatures which are as far away from the wolf as possible, one character, for example, shifts into a hare. I imagined that I would be disappointed about this, but to be honest, I viewed the diversity as a fascinating insight, rather than a letdown. There are stories I skipped, quite a few actually, and in all honesty, it’s the bigger named authors who disappointed me.

‘Boobs’ by Suzy McKee Charnas is a tale about a female teenage werewolf who ‘changes’ when due on her ‘time of the month.’ Harassed for her rather large assets, our protagonist sets out to seek revenge for her maltreatment.

‘No doubt about it, this was me. I was a werewolf, like in the movies they showed over Halloween weekend. But it wasn’t anything like your ugly movie werewolf that’s just some guy loaded up with pounds and pounds of makeup. I was gorgeous.’

I enjoyed the highly acclaimed tale ‘Boobs,’ even though the odd cliché sneaked in every now and again. It was a delightful way of turning the werewolf myth on its head, and I loved the leading female protagonist. A very strong minded young woman and a truly  grim and murderous werewolf.

There are twenty-four short stories in this volume and I can promise two things if you pick it up: One, you’ll be introduced to an eclectic mix of shapechangers and werewolfery. And secondly, you’ll find at least two or three gems that will stick with you for good. And that, in my opinion, makes reading this book worth it.

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