The Austin Chronicle

Gift Guide 2015: Fiction by Austin Authors

This tale of runaways prowling suburbia in a pack recalls the eerie unreality of The Twilight Zone

Reviewed by Robert Faires, December 11, 2015, Arts

If the title has you thinking you've finally found a Jane Austen-esque comedy of manners for that die-hard member of Team Jacob in your life, please note this disclaimer: The debut novel by ATX dramatist Kirk Lynn contains zero Regency romance, few manners, and the amount of literal lycanthropy – the whole full-moon fang-sprouting and fur-erupting of horror film and fiction – is left to the reader's imagination.

The titular creatures are essentially run-of-the-mill runaways, disaffected youths who have bolted the homes or institutions they hated for life on the streets. While one hesitates to imagine Holden Caulfield having children, much less grandchildren, these misfits share his bloodline: They're uncomfortably traversing the limbo between childhood and adulthood, not yet able to leave behind the one or enter the other, and cynical beyond their years. But they do take that "werewolf" designation seriously, believing that everyone who joins their "pack" will undergo a transformation, and they've fashioned a mythology and rituals relating to it. This all unspools as newbie Bobert comes on board and is educated in the ways of the 'wolves as they prowl suburbia for abandoned McMansions (either on the market or with owners on extended vacations) in which they can squat. The rules are part of an effort by members of the pack – and primarily alpha Malcolm – to forge a new society. It may well feed off the one they left and share that system's hierarchies, love of consumer goods, and faith in the supernatural, but hey, at least it's theirs. Alas, none of them seems to have read Lord of the Flies before they ran away. They learn the hard way that building a social order comes with a cost, and it's commonly a bloody one.

An eerie emptiness pervades the novel: in the deserted streets and untenanted homes, for sure, but also in the text, which is nothing but dialogue unascribed to characters. It doesn't make it that difficult to follow who's saying what (Lynn deftly slips in cues), but it adds to the book's strangeness, the off-kilter atmosphere and sensibility. Reading it, you definitely won't confuse Rules for Werewolves with Twilight, but you may feel you've entered The Twilight Zone.

Rules for Werewolves

by Kirk Lynn
Melville House, 339 pp., $25.95

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