For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading these stories, they are a series of paperback books that deliver “unaired adventures” of the characters in the show. I am not reading the novels in any particular order. Having memorized what happens in each season, i.e. which Sam is in play, what conflict is tearing apart the brothers, what Dean is worried about, etc., I can pretty much pick up any of the books and understand its context. I will admit, though, that I looked up the critics’ and fans’ reviews of the books and have skipped a few of the early books that were very poorly rated (Nevermore, Heart of the Dragon and One Year Gone. Let me know if you think they are worth my time).
So far I have read four books, most recently, Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson. It’s number eleven in the series, released in February of this year (there are currently 12 books available). Having just finished it, I would like to share my reactions while they are still, well, fresh.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was exciting and well written. I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t yet read it, but obviously, it was about Sam and Dean pursuing monster(s). Bobby was their partner on this hunt, so he was an equal part of the whole story, which was really welcome. The book was set mid-season 7 and the characters all stayed true to their TV counterparts in that time period. The reader didn’t get a lot of first person insight into Sam, Dean or Bobby’s thoughts, which was a little disappointing, but what was there was genuine. I also liked that the story focused equally on all three heroes, rather than being a “Dean story” or a “Sam story”. The monster story was also developed very well. I have to say that the story was never too scary, which for me was a good thing. I almost always read it at night, yet I was never so freaked out that I had to skip pages.
There were both new and old adversaries. The addition of new mythology made the story interesting, engaging and less predictable. The hunt included a number of plot twists that added mystery and intrigue. What struck me most about this story, though, was that it had only one speed – fast! The suspense never subsided! There was no down-time; no sections that were slow, no boring bridges between perilous events. I never reached a logical stopping point or a break in the action. It was 355 pages of danger and suspense, which made it fun and fast to read.
Its speed was also its major drawback, though. As I said, there was never a change of pace, even when it would have added to the impact of the story. There were several climactic points, yet the story flew through and past those as if nothing unusual had happened. More than once I read a section then paused and thought, “Wait, was that it? Did they just…….” I often went back to re-read paragraphs to convince myself I hadn’t missed something. For example, the most revealing explanation in the book was handled as a rather transactional monologue by a surprising ally. In just three paragraphs, this character explained key events, the ties that bound many of the characters together plus possible escape strategies for their current predicament! This was definitely a “Wait, what?” moment! Then the end of the book was only one half page from Sam and Dean’s triumph over their last threat! Literally, 104 words from the “will this work??” to white space on the page, and some of those closing words were about Dean being hungry and wanting to drive the Impala! I turned the page to see if there was another chapter! It really seemed like the author had hit her deadline so had to wrap up the loose ends and submit the draft within seconds of receiving a phone-call from her publisher! I really would have liked some mention of the massive life-threatening injuries sustained by Bobby and the boys and the time it would take them to recover. I would have liked some reflection on “How did we miss that?” or some recap of what they thought would happen to the minor characters introduced by the story. Oh well, one could say they were no wasted words!
For reading enjoyment, I give the book a 9 out of 10. For writing style, it gets a 7 out of 10 from me. I recommend it as a good way to get your Sam and Dean fix between TV episodes. If you have already read it, let me know your opinion of the story. If this type of review is helpful, I’ll share my thoughts on the other books as well. Happy Reading!