Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review: 'Furr' by Axel Howerton

Canadian author Axel Howerton, a former entertainment journalist, writes books that focus on paranormal fantasies, crime, science fiction – all in a manner unique to him. He maintains ‘human contact’ at all times with his characters who shift into other forms and in doing so makes his stories more related to psychological dissections of reality versus fantasy. It works! Axel is the Prairies director of the Crime Writers of Canada and a member of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, the Calgary Crime Writers, and the Kintsugi Poets. He is also the editor of the books AB Negative and Tall Tales of the Weird West, and the organizer behind one of Canada's first recurring "Noir At The Bar" events, #NoirBarYYC.

The richly atmospheric flavor of this werewolf novel is hinted gently in the opening paragraphs – ‘I can smell the smoke coming down from the mountains. It’s still a long way off, days even, but I can smell it all the same. Or I’m due for what my mother called a spell. Because I can’t possibly smell the trees burning four or five hundred kilometres away, but it’s there, coating the inside of my nose the same as if it was a campfire two feet in front of me. “You smell that?” Devil looks at me from under one doubtful eyebrow. “Do I smell what?” he grumbles, paying little attention to me and serious attention to the hundred bucks I just put in his hand. “You just want the usual, right?” “Of course.” Devil and I were friends. Had been friends. A very long time ago. Now he was just my weed dealer, and I was just one more awkward desk jockey nerd scoring off him in a back alley. Devil DeVille, master of every possible way to be cool. Leaning against his gleaming black Charger, in his black leather jacket, his black leather boots. Fonzie boots with the little buckles. I can smell the oil on those boots. Fresh oil. They gleam even in the sickly orange streetlight glow. Devil reaches into his pocket and tosses me a little plastic-bag coated bundle. The ripe stink of it brings water to my eyes and I pull back, while my fingers miraculously wrap around the bundle and pick it from the air. “Nice catch, Jimmy.” “Thanks.” I want to tell him how I’ve been oddly coordinated lately. How every wastebasket three-pointer has sunk, how every jagged sidewalk block that has tripped me up for the better part of three years has suddenly smoothed out in front of me. How I hear like a bat and pounce like a cat. I want to talk to him about the woman across the road, how I can smell her perfume when the balcony door is open. I want to share it with somebody, but I know what he’ll say. He’ll think I’m losing it again.’

Axel offers a very brief outline of the direction of this novel – ‘Jimmy Finn is having a real bad day. He woke up drunk and on the wrong end of a nightstick. He lost his job, and had to see his shrink. Now the cops are after him, he's falling apart, and his only friend is a volatile drug lord. How could it get any worse? As smoke envelopes the city, he finds himself on the run, and out of time. He's either losing his mind, or becoming a monster. Or maybe it's both. Jimmy Finn has one last hope. A long-buried family secret, lost above a mysterious town in the mountains, full of bizarre shadows and a strange girl that haunts his memories.’

The discoveries Finn makes are bristling, horrifying, and yet because of the manner in which Axel writes they almost seem real. THAT is when a paranormal writer has succeeded - when the fine line between fantasy and reality blurs and out pours a story that is, in other writers’ hands, make –believe. Axel Howerton pulls us into the immediacy of the tale – and incredible feat. Grady Harp, July 18

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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