Novel: Cycle of the Werewolf

cycleAuthor: Stephen King, 1983
Genre: Horror
Format: Ebook, 34 pages

This story and I go back a long way. It all started with my eight year-old self watching Silver Bullet one day. The movie scared the socks off me, and for a while there I couldn’t fall asleep without hiding under the covers first. That scene with Marty on the bridge shooting fireworks, when the werewolf starts running towards him? Damn, that’s no topless hunk out of a sparkly vampire flick – nuh-uh, that’s a throat-ripping, limb-chewing, moon-howling, behind-you-growling hairy beast! And he’s coming in your little town for an all-you-can-eat buffet! I still find werewolves the most fearsome of all fictional monsters. What can be more horrifying than a creature with the blood-lust of a man and the ferociousness of an animal? Even killing them is a tricky thing. While vampires are terrified of pretty much anything – sunlight, wooden stake, holy water, cross, garlic, probably your grandma, – you can only harm a werewolf with silver. Man, these puppies are scary (except the guy from Grimm, who is pretty much awesome, and that lame, fake Jacob, who I try to pretend doesn’t exist).

But back to the book, which I read a few years later. Recently, maybe because I’m getting old, I’ve been going through my childhood favorites (ie. watching The Real Ghostbusters and live-action TMNT movies) and drowning myself in sweet tears of nostalgia. Naturally, I had to submit myself to yet another trial by fear and re-watch Silver Bullet and re-read King’s great horror-romp that inspired it. While I find some instances in the movie quite comical (werewolf turning the “Peacemaker” on its owner) and the special effects charmingly outdated, it is still a great classic horror flick. The book is simple and is divided into short chapters, each describing the events around the full moon. If I read it today with no prior connection to the franchise, I would probably write it off as an average short with some pretty good, tense moments – nothing more. But being a major part of my childhood as it is, you have to excuse me for slapping a big, raving five-star rating on this baby. I’m biased and I admit it.

The story surrounds a ten-year-old paraplegic boy named Marty, who lives in a small town in Maine (a state apparently riddled with supernatural, according to King). While his neighbors are gripped in fear of recent suspicious murders, Marty chooses to sneak outside to celebrate Independence Day with his personal fireworks display. A giant bipedal wolf attacks him, but the boy manages to blast the monster’s eye out with his firecrackers and to escape certain death. Soon he learns of the killer’s identity, when he sees the most trust-worthy man in town walking around with an eye-patch. Marty knows that the werewolf will come back for him sooner or later, and tries to convince his uncle to make a silver bullet before it’s too late.

Like I already said, this is an important book for me, so I might rate it higher than it deserves. Granted, there isn’t much character development or plot twists – it is a pretty short after all, – but Cycle of the Werewolf has everything a good scary tale must have: a killer next door, a race against time, mystery and big reveal, atmospheric writing that glues you to a chair and makes your heart leap… There are some tiny issues with science (you don’t say…) and continuity. King confesses in the epilogue that the moon phases were skewed to coincide with major holidays like St. Valentines, 4th of July, or New Year’s Day, which might hurt realism of the story. Also, when the Constable is killed in the middle of the book, his truck randomly changes from a Dodge to a Ford within a few paragraphs. But nevermind all that nitpicking, all this inconsistency is done in the name of creativity, so deal with it. I am going to get myself the paperback with Berni Wrightson illustrations to put on my shelf and be scared forever!

Speaking of nonsensical childhood nostalgias, I should watch Goosebumps and Tales from the Crypt again.

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