Review: The Werewolf's Guide to Life

werewolf-guide-coverIf you’ve been attacked by a werewolf and have survived, then you need a copy of Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers’ new book The Werewolf’s Guide to Life: A Manual for the Newly Bitten.

While lycanthropy is inconvenient at best and terribly dangerous at worst, Duncan and Powers contend that it’s something a person can successfully manage. Through proper precautions and care—including cages, restraining systems, and livestock—a lycanthrope can live a full, rich, successful life. Otherwise, without the advice offered in the manual, a lyc is doomed to be an object of scorn, attracting mobs of angry, pitchfork- and torch-wielding villagers.

The Werewolf’s Guide works as a humor piece because Duncan and Powers play it straight, with casual matter-of-factness: werewolves are real. “Unlike the rest of society,” they write, “werewolves happen to have a condition that, three times a month, causes their bodies to almost double in size, triple in strength and agility, grow a mass of tightly woven fur, and transform from an unremarkable human being into a savage, wild animal resembling (but distinctly different from) a wolf, whose behavior patterns are generally dictated by voracious hunger and rage.”

There’s no supernatural mysticism to lycanthropy. “The blood and saliva of werewolves contain a contagion that acts upon the pituitary gland,” the authors explain. “After you’ve been attacked, this contagion travels through your bloodstream and causes your pituitary gland to release a rare and normally dormant thyroid-stimulating hormone called lycantropin.”

Max Brooks’ 2003 The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead worked for much the same reason. People who’ve read both books will find it impossible not to draw comparisons between the two, right down to the cute little illustrations in each one. In that context, Duncan and Powers’ book feels derivative—it’s just different enough to be worthwhile, but it owes its very existence to Brooks.

That said, The Werewolf’s Guide is brain candy enough to stand on its own as fun escapism. Duncan and Powers are sophisticated with their werewolf construct, and they explore it with a surprisingly elaborate level of detail. They cover a gamut of topics that ranges from “romance and the modern lycanthrope” to “Of God, the Devil , and lycanthrope faith” to “keeping secret, keeping safe, staying alive.” The book includes interviews with werewolf hunters and with “fur chasers” (humans who have fetish-like obsessions with werewolves).

At 236 pages, the joke maybe gets old after a while, but kudos to Duncan and Powers for thoroughly thinking through their approach. The book is light enough that most readers can probably barrel through it in just a couple sittings, which should be enough to keep the humor fresh.

The Werewolf’s Guide offers plenty to like for lycs and non-lycs alike.