Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Review: Family Pack by Michael Jasper

Michael Jasper's Family Pack tells the tale of Tommy Rolins who has abandoned his studies in order to take responsibility of an unplanned child in a relationship that doesn't really work. As the parents are struggling with their money problems and their failing relationship, a bloody murder takes place in a nearby forest - a forest that Tommy considers his own territory and where he spends his nights prowling as a werewolf every full moon...

The story's premise is rather interesting with a young man who knows that he is a werewolf, but who has been kept mostly in the dark about what exactly it means by his mother. The mother is a control-freak, believing that their were side should be kept under control and only let out every full moon if absolutely necessary. She also blames her son for having discontinued his studies and having got married with his wife. Tommy also has a brother and a father who are not werewolves and the novel touches - lightly - on the feelings of exclusion that this can cause. Additionally, I quite liked the young father angle and the doomed relationship of Tommy and his wife. It was well written for the most part, although some events took place somewhat too easily.

However, there were some problems with how the plotting of the story was handled. Although the murder takes place very early in the novel, the first half of the story basically concentrates on the failing marriage and Tommy moving to live in a city. The reader is left wondering whether the murder actually has anything to do with the story and whether this is actually a story about a young man finding himself - until Tommy is finally called back home to take part in the final showdown between the rural werewolves and a pack of new arrivals. The story does not have any feeling of escalating events, since the main character - to whose point of view we are entirely bound to - isn't around when they take place.

There are also other, smaller problems. The characters keep destroying their clothes repeatedly when turning into werewolves, but magically get new clothes for the next scene. Also, way too many characters turn out to be werewolves and sometimes too conveniently so. Furthermore, the conflict between the rural werewolves and the newly arrived pack turns out to be somewhat contrived. The text is also riddled with typos and grammar errors that get more numerous as the story progresses.

Michael Jasper's concept of werewolf is - thankfully - not that of the traditional blood-crazed monster. Rather, the werewolves mostly keep their human minds when they turn (except for Tommy who had not learned to do so for some reason). They are also regular wolves in most senses except for being bigger and - apparently - having long talons with which to rip open their victims.

Overall, the novel is somewhat difficult to rate. The young father angle was a good idea, but the way Tommy leaves the scene of the conflict for a large portion of the story leaves the reader confused. With some more work on the plotting and honing the story, it might have been a lot better.