Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Mongrels  breathes new life into werewolves in fiction. Stepehen Graham Jones  sets a story in a real world with seemingly real people and real life situations. By the end of the book, I began thinking of werewolves as more plausible than bigfoot to some degree.  I think what has been lacking in werewolf related fiction is werewolves that fit into the real world.  Mongrels is the Salem’s Lot of werewolf fiction, sits perched at the top of the heap and worthy of Stoker consideration.

Graham is a hard author to put into a category, but I think experimental is a good fit. Mogrels , for instance, doesn’t have a traditional plotline where the protagonist has a big happening early in the book that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Instead, the entire “plot” follows a young man and his family (aunt and uncle who are werewolves) as the young man comes of age. There really is not an overreaching event, but several vignettes of places and happenings of a wandering nomadic family of werewolves. The formatting and approach of the book aren’t a hindrance but effectively keeps the reader engaged moving from one place and event the next.

Where the book really shines is the way Jones is able to make the characters believable. If there were really werewolves, how would they have to live? Well, werewolves are creatures of rage and hard to control and couldn’t live within society’s center, but at its edges. Vagabonds, hobos, homeless or transient folks, in general, would be where they’d exist. They’d live a life of poverty , of  suspicion and anxiety. That’s exactly what the author highlights in this book. I happen to have lived a life of poverty growing up and a lot of the things these characters do, just to survive and deal with crappy cars, doing morally questionable things and moving over and over again ring true with me.

The characters are very realistic even though they are werewolves if you grew up like I did you know a guy like Darren and you probably knew a woman like Libby and probably had a storytelling grandpa as well. Darren is a clearly flawed individual, even perhaps among werewolves but deep down has a heart of gold. Libby is the loving mother hen, that might rip your face off. Many families have secrets, this one is no different and that’s a large part of the story.

Another great aspect is that while the base of Stephen Graham Jones’ werewolves is set with the traditional werewolf, he has created a new mythos  and lore for werewolves. Where did they come from? How do they breed? Consideration for what they eat while in wolf form and what happens if it’s still there when they turn back to human is well covered.

The narration is also very good, but not quite as good as the prose. The narration was done by Chris Patton and Jonathan Yen, I’m no sure  which one is doing each part. Patton is a veteran of over a hundred audiobook credits, including other horror greats such as Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” and Poppy Z Brite’s “Lost Souls”. Jonathan Yen also has many credits but I’m not familiar with any of his previous work. I believe that Patton is narrating the present story line , while Yen is narrating the chapters with that take place in the past.

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