"High Moor" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Horrific Tales Publishing
Written by Graeme Reynolds
2011, 368 pages, Fiction
Released on November 17th, 2011
If you were to ask me at any given time what my favorite subgenre in horror is, my answer would probably be different than the first (or next) time you asked me. That's because I'm always in the mood for something different. I used to like vampires a lot, but that love has been smashed by the influx of pretty vampires over the years (with some exceptions like the Guilermo del Toro / Chuck Hogan Strain series). Zombies were always a go to party, but with the ever increasing popularity of cheap (but capable of a beautiful picture) cameras and backyard "filmmakers", that has run its course. However, a consistent choice, and always in my top three, is the werewolf subgenre. Perhaps it's the fact that the market is rarely saturated with those big hairy beasts, or maybe it's just that it's so hard to find a quality piece with them — be it books or movies — that when you do come across something above average, it makes you appreciate it that much more. Like High Moor.
However, it's not fair to say Graeme Reynolds' book is simply above average. Quite the contrary. The book is fantastic. Reynolds does what a great storyteller is supposed to do and that is to write a character-rich novel with werewolves as opposed to a werewolf novel with some characters. Far too often in this genre (and zombie books and movies, as well) the beasts take too much of the front and center and you find that there is nobody worth caring about. But here, like most stand-out pieces, Reynolds takes the time with his protagonists, creating well liked (or effectively disliked) characters from the get-go with strategically placed scenes of the monsters. They show up slowly at first, but then more and more frequently as the book progresses until a bloody finale of tooth, claw and bullets.
High Moor opens with a man frantically locking himself in his basement as the full moon makes its rise. The next day, he learns of a mysterious animal attack in High Moor, the town where he grew up — and where he had his own run-in with a lycanthrope two decades earlier. Curious, he returns home for the first time in 20 years to investigate. He uncovers things from his past that perhaps were best left buried, but as the mystery unfolds — and without giving too much away — it's not like he had much of a choice in the matter.
What I really like about the novel is how the story develops. There are two different time periods going on: what happened to John and his friends in 1986 and what is going on 20 years later. The events in 1986 take precedence, and seem to be the bigger part of the book, but the timeline with adult John is just as important. Reynolds expertly weaves the two together, keeping the mystery of what — or who — is doing the killings, as well as presenting his own take on the werewolf mythos. Apparently, there are two types of the beasts; one type can control not just their actions when they change, but also when they can change and the other is just flat out "moon struck" and those big dogs just have no control whatsoever. They just want to kill and feast. This adds an interesting element to the story because not only do you have man vs. beast, you also get beast vs. beast.
High Moor spends so much time in 1986, this book can damn near be a coming-of-age novel that is almost reminiscent of Stephen King's IT. Both books have a group of friends that are outsiders often being attacked by the local bully and his gang of thugs, all the while having to deal with a ferocious beast on top of it. Admittedly IT is far more epic in scope, but they are both very similar in the theme of the power of friendship (and maybe that just because you are a kid doesn't mean you are safe from fucked up things too).
The book's ending is satisfying and ambiguous all at once. It doesn't leave you completely hanging, but it's obvious that it is left open for a sequel. I'm fine with this because Graeme Reynolds has written a captivating, action packed, this-should-be-a-movie werewolf novel in High Moor and if this is going to be a series of some sort, count me in for the ride. It should be a fun one.