Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61922-909-9
Blood and Rain, as you can most likely tell from the cover, is a werewolf story. Author Glenn Rolfe has a simple story here. Basically, a beast is terrorizing Gilson Creek, a town in Maine. Since the brutal killings take place during the full moon, some people believe that a werewolf, or some other monster that is under the influence of the moon, is behind the atrocities. However, Sheriff Joe Fischer takes forever to accept that there is a werewolf in town, and by that time, the body count has gone up so high, it’s pretty hilarious.
Well, the good stuff first: the author has a breezy, atmospheric writing style. He doesn’t delve too deeply into the characters’ heads here, but that’s okay, he knows how to make a scene move, which is good.
Unfortunately, this is one story that could have shaved off a hundred or so pages and may come out better for it. While Joe is mentioned in the back cover synopsis, giving me the impression that he’s going to be the action hero kicking wolf rear ends here, the truth is this is more of an ensemble story. There are many, many, many characters here, and given how they are just mostly stick figures with names in this story, it can be a chore to try to remember who is who, and eventually I stop trying because most of these people are introduced only to be killed off soon anyway. Blood and Rain can be very easy to put down because a big part of this story is basically people getting killed left and right. Now, I like gore and violence as much as anyone, but there are only so many meat-gets-killed moments I can take without wondering whether the author intends to take his story somewhere, anywhere.
This story also lacks surprises. The werewolf lore is strictly old school, and the identity of the werewolf is obvious from the get go. The author also loads his story with horror story clichés to the point that I can correctly deduce who will die from the things this fellow says or does. Normally, predictability isn’t that bad, but here, the predictability is coupled to so many filler-like people-get-munched scenes that things get repetitive and boring fast. The author’s engaging narrative makes this story a painless read, but its lack of coherent direction or steady build-up end up negating the author’s entertaining voice.
If we cut down the body count by a third or so, and let the good guys get clued in on the werewolf earlier for a longer showdown scene, Blood and Rain would have been a tighter, more effective horror story. In its current form, it can throw a party to remember, but the author takes so much time to warm up that I don’t blame anyone who gets tired of waiting and opts to read something else.