Rage Master by Simon Clark
Earthling Publications (October 2015)
250 pages, signed/numbered hardcover $45
Reviewed by David Simms
Each year as the special holiday approaches, Earthling Publications treats horror readers with a special book that harkens back to the good old days of the genre. The supernatural is at play with haunted houses, monstrous creatures, and otherworldly scares which make the Halloween Series such a fixture in horror fiction. Paul Miller has yet to produce a bad book, yet after last year’s stellar The Halloween Children, expectations were set at a high level.
Simon Clark, always solid in his many novels, was tasked to pen a unique take on the werewolf mythos. Rage Master definitely delivers on that task. Clark gives the reader a pack of wolf people who call themselves “Dog Heads,” who are more human than canine. Sure, there are a few physical traits that set them apart from their “homo-sap” enemies, but there are no full moon, full body transformations. Only “the Rage.” Occurring every few months, it hits the pack at once, sending everyone into a bloodthirsty frenzy.
Kavell is one of the last remaining Dog Heads who have migrated across Russia after they were nuked by their own country. Since then, his people have been hunted, nearly to extinction. He takes off in search of his brother, Sebastian, who has never experienced the Rage and might hold the secret to much more. Through towns and forests of France they seek safety, while each protecting a woman – a human one. They discover something much darker in the dog hunters’ plans; something that could alter the course of both humans and Dog Heads forever.
Between the chapters are “reports” that lend insights into the hunters’ and governments’ mindsets as well as the Dog Heads’ history. The story flies by and Clark has infused a great deal of action to keep the pages turning, but there’s a deeper meaning to Rage Master. Sociocultural issues are tackled here with the problems of oppression from various cultures, giving the novel and the characters a depth not typically found in a “werewolf” novel. Kavell’s story is one based in violence as he seeks out the humanity in himself and his people.
The writing itself is sparse but dead on, exactly what this story needs, nailing the brothers and their struggles as outsiders in a world that wishes to squash anything out of the norm. Simon Clark has delivered another strong work, one that rivals King Blood and Nailed by the Heart. Thanks to Earthling for another Halloween treat.
Recommended for any fan of classic horror, or just a good story.