Reviewing a book that was written by a friend is always a dicey prospect. A big part of you wants to give your bud's career a push. Yet you don't want to compromise your integrity and recommend a book that is not worthy. There is far too much of that going on in the community as it is.

I've known Matt Serafini for a long time. Despite having never met the man in the flesh, I feel very close to him. This is the age of electronic gratification, right? Get you books, music, even friends online. But I really do like Matt. I met him way back at the Gorezone Message Board, where I got my own start in all this online stuff. Matt was always one of the good guys. Always enthusiastic, always ready to talk about slasher movies, monster movies, action, you name it.

And I knew that Matt could write. Not that penning reviews is the same as writing fiction, but at least the guy always had a good grasp of the English language, and he could put his thoughts down in writing with intelligence and wit.

Now Matt Serafini has not only written, but published, a genre novel. He has chosen werewolves as his subject. He already gets big, big kudos for not going with zombies or vampires.

I said that I would be honest here, and I intend to do so. Don't worry, the news isn't all bad...

Feral is a first novel, and it reads like one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

You know how some writers come out of the gate with a knockout book? It's rare, but mutants like Norman Partridge, Dan Simmons, John Little, and very few others had absolutely stunning debuts. Most everyone else falters a bit. But the good ones falter in an enjoyable way.

Take a look at some of the most beloved writers in the field. Lansdale, McCammon, even King. Their first works show a lot of passion and guts. They all had this burning need to tell stories, but their talent had yet to flourish. This isn't to say that books like The Nightrunners, Baal, and Carrie are not good, highly enjoyable reads. They are. They also show the beginnings of heights to come.

Matt Serafini's Feral is an ambitious, balls-to-the-wall werewolf extravaganza. You can feel the lifetime of passion for horror in every paragraph of the book. It's a lot of fun and I like it that he avoided most of the cliches.

The novel starts off comfortably. The reader meets two guys who aren't so much different than the average horror/exploitation fan. Jack and Allen are spending the summer in a resort town, hoping to have some good times before adulthood claims their lives. I mean, these guys like Cannon-era Charles Bronson movies! How can you not enjoy this?

Their fun comes to a halt when Allen becomes obsessed with a woman who seems almost too perfect. There's something ugly underneath her ravishing veneer. Something almost...feral.

Soon, not only the guys, but the entire resort town of Greifsfield are in danger of being annihilated by a clan of lycanthropes.

Feral is a little goofy at times, and a lot brutal at others. The novel builds gradually to a highly suspenseful conclusion. And I was happy to see that Matt has left the door open to revisit the world he created in Feral again. If he does, I'll definitely sign up for the ride.

I urge everyone to not miss out on the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful career for a new writer in the genre.

Review by Mark Sieber

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