Greetings from the Ether,
Depending on when you’re reading this, Max Booth III’s new novel Carnivorous Lunar Activities from Cinestate and Fangoria has either just released, or will be available within the next few hours. We were lucky enough to receive an ARC for review, and couldn’t be more stunned by the sheer quality of this work from one of the horror community’s busiest and most ambitious voices.
Carnivorous Lunar Activities follows two characters: Ted, a man who has just sabotaged his own marriage, and Justin, his childhood friend who calls Ted and soon reveals a shocking and disturbing truth concerning his own recent nocturnal experiences. The novel rapidly picks up pace, and before the reader realizes it, they’re knee-deep in a blood-soaked, popcorn page-turner that is likely going to breathe new life into the Werewolf genre.
What really separates Booth’s novel from others is the fact that this story is sentient, almost self-aware in its nature. It never takes itself too seriously, and in a meta-fashion, expresses the readers’ own absurd thoughts concerning Justin’s long bouts of dialogue where he explains the insane, wild ride that led to his current predicament. There are bizarre moments that add to the absurdity, such as Justin tying himself to an anchor as he anticipates his transformation, and also gut-wrenchingly emotional scenarios where Ted comes to terms with his own sins and the people he’s affected along the way.
Neither character is clean–both literally and figuratively–and this is something that really adds to the atmosphere of the novel. Ted and Justin are as close as a writer can get to portraying realistic, flawed characters, even if they’re not the most savory of individuals. Their experiences and childhood memories feel genuine, and there’s not a moment during their conversations that feels forced or unnatural. Booth’s decision to lock down the first half of the book with dialogue and an enclosed space was genius, and it builds claustrophobia for the readers, which is a theme that can be felt throughout the novel’s narrative. When the story finally does leave Justin’s basement, it detonates.
We have to emphasize how powerful Booth’s voice is throughout the novel. Every sentence bursts from the page, and both Ted and Justin have such strong personalities, it’s as if they’re in the room with us, and we’re passerby who have become too curious to look away and stop listening. Booth’s consistent referencing of An American Werewolf in London isn’t by accident, as the inspiration is evident with our narrative and the dark humor laced throughout. There are plenty of hilarious moments that Booth masterfully sprinkles in amidst the grotesque descriptions and filthy atmosphere that seeps with every line of dialogue. This novel is meant to gross out the reader, and despite that, Booth never overreaches with the nastiness.
Black Comedy is a difficult subgenre to write in, but Booth shows no restraint in his conquering of it with his crisp language and ability to understand exactly the type of novel he’s writing. The author’s voice is one of the strongest we’ve ever read, and though Carnivorous Lunar Activities is definitely a quick read, it is nonetheless unforgettable in its quality and focused direction. Werewolves have never been this funny, and the gory nature of their origins and transformations have never been scarier. There’s a certain human element to Justin’s crises, and it’s not what you’d expect. Whereas most Werewolf stories are designed to make you feel sympathy for the kindhearted, wholesome characters, we don’t get that here. Yeah, we feel bad that Justin’s going through this, but not due to his kind nature. Rather, it’s because he is as flawed as a real person, even if his moral compass is a bit more questionable than most. We see someone who has good memories and has experienced joy, but who is also often detestable and who’s made a lot of mistakes. This is perhaps where Booth’s voice is strongest, in the fact that he can depict a character that we shake our head at but also ravenously enjoy reading.
The relationship between Justin and Ted is definitely the star of the novel, and we see true, undying friendship between them. Their witty banter and crude remarks are enough to make any reader laugh out loud, all at the same time tickling that warm place in our hearts reserved for our own best friends and fondest memories. This theme is seen from the first call Justin makes to Ted, and all the way to the final lines. They’re the kind of friends that pick up right where they left off after not seeing each other for years. The type that would do just about anything for each other, while also enjoying the art of antagonizing one another. Booth’s novel is a showcase for character dynamics that many writers will likely use as a template for their own work in the future, and the author’s mastery of dialogue and fast-paced storytelling will undoubtedly claim a new wave of fans for the writer.
Werewolf stories are an old dog, but Max Booth III has taught the genre some new tricks. We encourage each and every one of you to order Carnivorous Lunar Activities, as it is easily in the bracket for best horror novel of 2019 thus far, and we are excited to hear your thoughts when you experience this highlight of personal horror.
Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the co-host of Castle Rock Radio, a Stephen King podcast. He’s the author of many novels and frequently contributes articles to both LitReactor and CrimeReads. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at http://www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.
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