Artisan Press, $2.99
Poor Faustus Aelius Quinctilius Asprenas, our Roman infantry officer back in the old days. First, his men were being slaughtered by the German horde in the battle of Teutoburg Forest, and he flees. Then, chance puts him in command of a bunch of Roman soldiers, who all eventually got slaughtered anyway, leaving poor Faustus to go on a run again. And then he gets bitten by a wolf-like monstrosity. Can our guy ever catch a break? Well, there’s that part about that monstrosity being a werewolf, hence the title of this story: Faustus Lupus…
Robert Reade’s story sees our protagonist moving from place to place as he tries to break his curse, and a dozen people here or there get mauled and eaten bloody jolly along the way. And then Faustus suddenly turns into this social justice avenger character and the story starts to take a dip in entertainment value. Really, the best bits of the story are when people are killing one another – those are the moments when things are moving at a good, rollicking pace. When the story slows down, my attention starts to wander.
A big reason for this is because when the author starts describing details such as scenery, cultural norms, et cetera, he goes from storyteller into museum guide mode – dumping details on me in a way that seems to be right out of a brochure. The shift from action to exposition is always noticeable, and the pace then slows down into a slog as Faustus ends up playing a role more akin to a gawking tourist than a protagonist. And when the author then points out all the injustices faced by the people under the oppression of the ruling class, the story becomes an infodump as well as a soapbox. I want those mangled bodies to make a comeback.
Also, Faustus is flat for a protagonist. He reacts to the circumstances he finds himself in, but I could do with a bit more glimpse into his psychology.
The author’s narrative is clean and readable, although that are bewildering portions of the book where there are consecutive sentences that keep addressing our protagonist by his name: Faustus this, Faustus that, Faustus all the way. At any rate, Faustus Lupus is an easy read, hence three oogies. Unfortunately, it is nowhere as exciting or gory as that charming cover art suggests, so it’s also slow and meandering at paces. If only the author had somehow integrated the information dumping and soapbox elements more smoothly and organically into the bloodshed and action promised at the start of the story!