Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

CarnivorousLunarActivitiesOne day, out of the blue, Ted receives a telephone call from Justin, a childhood friend who has not spoken to him for three years. The two meet up in Justin’s squalid abode, and Ted is soon distracted from the problems in his own life – including the terminal state of his relationship with his wife Shelly – by the utterly bizarre story that his friend has to tell.

Between numerous asides about childhood memories shared by the two young men, Justin reveals all about the dark turn his life has taken. He became involved with dogfighting, and decided to buy a particularly vicious dog that he saw advertised on Craigslist. The animal he ended up with, however, turned out to be something rather different from a typical canine: “try to imagine a wolf, okay? Only the wolf’s on steroids and its father might be a bear” says Justin.

The animal then escaped from its cage, but not before biting Justin – and turning him into a werewolf. And so Justin presents Ted with a gun containing two silver bullets, and makes a simple request: that he wait until the full moon rises, watches his chained-up friend turn into a wolf, and duly shoot him in the heart for the greater good.

Carnivorous Lunar Activities reads like a dudebro version of Interview with the Vampire, much of its narrative being conveyed past-tense by Justin as he is grilled by the increasingly bewildered Ted. With this framing device the novel is able to tell not only the story of Justin’s lycanthropic affliction, but also the poignant tale of a childhood friendship that faded. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of their reunion – and the matter of Ted’s fractured relationship with Shelly, details of which spill out during the meet-up – the two characters find time to reminisce about teenage movie nights and schoolboy pranks involving bodily fluids.

A sense of melancholy permeates even the most trivial stretch of banter. When the main characters get into an argument about whether or not John Carpenter’s The Thing counts as a remake – the sort of banter that could easily have been no more than a self-indulgent geek-out on the part of the author – this comes across as a fond reminiscence for the simple pleasures of a youth now gone. “Maybe our lives peaked that night we watched American Werewolf”, remarks Justin at one point.

The novel is more than two ex-frat boys sharing their memories, of course. As Justin tells his tale, events from the story’s past begin intruding upon its present, and the collateral damage from Justin’s full-moon jaunts begin coming to the characters’ doorstep. Come the climax, Ted ends up in the middle of the chaos caused by Justin, and author Max Booth ends up juggling a multitude of plot points introduced over the course of the story. True to form, Carnivorous Lunar Activities reaches an all-action climax followed by a conclusion that is as touching as it is outrageous.

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