For the month of May, I was sent City Under The Moon, a debut novel by one of the insanely amazing minds behind Robot Chicken, Hugh Sterbakov. Not being a connoisseur of this particular genre and with the added headache of the last book I reviewed leaving me a little jaded on the experience, I delved into this story expecting the worst and came away with a new found respect for the horror genre. At least, if the other stories in this genre are anything like City Under The Moon.
In an effort to correctly portray real life situations with a dash of superstition thrown into the cauldron, City Under The Moon is about a CDC response to a virus outbreak in Manhattan where everyone transforms into a hairy beast via moonlight. And that’s when it hit me. This book is about WEREWOLVES. In Manhattan. I almost expected a cheesy 80s song to kick in and Taylor Lautner to rip his shirt off while I rolled my eyes and heaved into the nearest receptacle.
But Hugh’s take on the strain is a little bit different, thank the Old Gods and the New. After the Twilight fancraze, I vowed to stay tail length away from anything involving Werewolves, so I was initially a little turned off by the subject matter. At 470 pages, Hugh Sterbakov’s painstaking research into the mythology of the mutts was not what I expected from the Twilight aftermath. It also really helps the skepticism a little when the title page has quotes by Seth Green and Mila Kunis. They seem like people you just want to trust.
City Under the Moon was sent to me in .PDF form so that I could read anytime, anywhere via my Nook Color. Though there seems to be a compatibility issue where all punctuation is erased, that detail wasn’t enough to stop me from enjoying the first few chapters of Brianna Tildascow’s super practical police work. With an opening that charges right into the thick of the action and a hospital hijack bloodbath, be sure to clear out your schedule. Between long hours at work and a beat-your-ass convention schedule, I was left struggling to find time in which to devour the narrative and find out where the story was headed. This was the first mistake of many I made as I packed my Nook for A-Kon 23 and tried to read anytime I could sneak in a spare moment.
City Under the Moon has a lovingly crafted George R. R. Martin-esque writing style feel, complete with the point of view shifts that I’ve come to love reading. The majority of the story spotlights on FBI counterterrorism specialist and femme fatale Brianna Tildascow, who prefers to be known by her surname only. However, the narrative isn’t one dimensional as it takes us into the minds of minor characters who all have an impact on the bigger picture. Lon Toller, the government enlisted and self proclaimed “werewolf expert” who is also a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons nut on the side, socially awkward Dr. Jessica Tanner with her mousy but firm demeanor, and even one impressively written chapter from the big baddie himself, Demetrius Valenkov round out all of the supporting characters with believably fleshed out personalities and a relatable thought process. There is no wondering why the bimbo ran upstairs when the killer is in the house.
Normally, I am completely desensitized to all fashions of gore, but City Under The Moon is not a “wake up and read over your bowl of Corn Pops” kind of book.The enthralling plot coupled with a threat of bioneucleur retaliation sets up a very action packed climax, with the parallels between ultimate hunters Valenkov and Tildascow’s personalities surprisingly well balanced. Cleverly INTERWOLVEN (hah. puns.) with pop culture references galore, my only minor problem fell in the form of the fairer sex, as Sterbakov is no Joss Whedon in the women-writing department. But kudos to him for holding his own in this first novel, as he has nowhere to go but up.
A fully researched work that has no problems taking risks, City Under The Moon is a credit to it’s genre. If you are a fan of the occult, lots of details and thrilling action stories, definitely check it out. You can find it via Amazon in both Paperback or e-reader format, or even snag yourself an autographed copy at the official website. City Under The Moon is the kind of book that makes you want to grab a glass of wine, huddle up under some blankets, and make sure your dog is at your feet and not contorting into some hideous elongated version of the pooch you know and love. Or maybe that’s just me.