I read a lot during my American vacation, enough that I hit my annual book goal early in September. This was due in part to revisiting children’s and middle grade books while staying with my parents (Emil and the Detectives, Berries Goodman) and also to reading very short volumes, of which The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay is one.
The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay was part of a care package from a friend in Texas; I’d never heard of Erik Evensen or any of his work before this. Thus I had no expectations going in and, as a result, had a fun time reading it. I’m also not as well read in The ClassicsTM as I should be, since I didn’t twig to the Beowulf structure/retelling until reading the afterword from the author. No, not even the title tipped me off.
My only criticism is a point of taste, and one that I think most of the people who enjoyed the book will disagree with. I’m as steeped in teeaboo geek pop culture as the best (or worst?) of them, but when other works start laying on the references with a trowel—specifically when the author leans extra hard in making it clear to the audience that a character is That Kind of person—it becomes a bit much. There were lots of conversations that felt, to me, like cringe-inducing pandering.
Gags like license plates or t-shirts are one thing, and actually are a great way for a visual medium to be subtle in a way that pure text can never be. (Think of all of Roy O’Dowd’s t-shirts in The IT Crowd. Now reflect on how it would be impossible to make the same off-hand reference in text without tediously describing the t-shirt in question and, in doing so, drawing extra attention to it.) Evensen includes these sorts of visual references, and if that had been his only approach I would have thought them well done. But the references to Star Trek or Red Dwarf in conversations have nothing at all to do with the story, or even the characters, and feel shoehorned in just for the sake of showing off to the audience that “I like your favorite geeky thing!”
For all the words I just spent on it, though, it’s really only a minor criticism; nothing ever took me fully out of the story. Like I said, a matter of taste.
If your favorite X-Files episodes were the monster-of-the-week stories, or if you’re really into collecting Beowulf translations and retellings, this is exactly the little one-shot for you and it’s worth throwing a couple bones at the author. As for me, I won’t be revisiting The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay, but I’ll put Gods of Asgard on my TBR.