Friday, April 4, 2008

Book Review: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

(Note: Also posted at The Spring Reading Challenge.)

I picked this book after seeing it described on Booksense, a site Luminiferous Ether recommended as a source for ideas when looking for something to read. Sharp Teeth is Toby Barlow’s first novel. Barlow also writes for the Huffington Post.

The story is pretty much a werewolf tale set in contemporary Los Angeles. In Barlow’s world, the werewolves can change shape at will, no full moon required, turn into actual dogs and retain their self-awareness regardless of the form they happen to be in. There are several packs in the L.A. area and they don't really get along with each other. Each pack consists of any number of males, one alpha male and one female. One of these packs is controlled by a werewolf named Lark. Lark is working on some grand scheme, which never really gets fully explained, but the scheme requires lots of money, the infiltration of the dog pound and entering two of his pack members in a bridge tournament. Lark’s pack is pretty white-collar. One of the other packs is more gang-like. Early in the story, the female from Lark’s pack falls in love with a dogcatcher. I don’t think her name was ever mentioned, but other female werewolves in the story had names, so I don’t know what that was about. Maybe my memory is just messed up. The story follows a number of different characters (werewolves, a cop, the dogcatcher, etc) through the twists and turns of the plot.

Sharp Teeth has some pretty violent moments, but it doesn’t get terribly graphic in its descriptions of violent acts. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is squeamish. The book is also written in verse form, which seemed a bit odd to me. Even though it reads like prose, I found it to be somewhat distracting. Another distraction, and this is something I find in a lot of books, were the descriptions of romantic moments between characters. Not that there was a lot of that in this book, but there was some. It seems to me that writers put these scenes in because someone, probably a publisher, tells them they have to, but I usually find that they make me uncomfortable. Where do they get some of those descriptions? (“She parted as he entered her.” Puh-lease!) Is there a Writing Sex Scenes For Dummies™ book that lists all the clich├ęs? I don't think of myself as a prude, but I don’t particularly want to watch someone else engaged in an intimate moment, nor do I want to listen to people describe their sex-lives. Why should books be any different? I much prefer that, when the story calls for it, the writer alludes to a romantic interlude rather than stooping to throbbing manhoods and heaving bosoms. Aside from that I found Sharp Teeth to be well written and an entertaining read. I think I’d give it a 6 on a scale of 1 - 10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed,

I'm enjoying Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, thank you for the suggestion. I'm going to request this one from the library, too.