Immortal Lycanthropes

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Overview

"A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly."

So begins the incredible story of Myron Horowitz, a disfigured thirteen-year-old just trying to fit in at his Pennsylvania school. When a fight with a bully leaves him unconscious and naked in the wreckage of the cafeteria, Myron discovers that he is an immortal lycanthrope—a were-mammal who can transform from human to...

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Overview

"A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly."

So begins the incredible story of Myron Horowitz, a disfigured thirteen-year-old just trying to fit in at his Pennsylvania school. When a fight with a bully leaves him unconscious and naked in the wreckage of the cafeteria, Myron discovers that he is an immortal lycanthrope—a were-mammal who can transform from human to animal. He also discovers that there are others like him, and many of them want Myron dead. “People will turn into animals,” says the razor-witted narrator of this tour-de-force, “and here come ancient secrets and rivers of blood.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Johnson’s debut never quite finds its footing, but the chaos of the plot and smugly self-conscious narration are tempered by some fascinating concepts and a hefty dose of the absurd. Myron Horo-witz, an adopted orphan whose scarred face reflects a childhood trauma, is a ninth grader who still looks like he’s eight years old. When he becomes the target of a bully one day, his hidden powers send the other boy to the hospital and bring Myron to the attention of people trying to kill or save him. He learns that he’s one of the titular creatures, which can transform into animals and can only die at the hands of another lycanthrope. Myron’s misadventures introduce him to secret societies (it turns out the Illuminati prevented WWI for 100 years), dangerous tests, and allies that range from a cheese-addicted weremoose to a helpful but larcenous weregorilla. The wackiness sits oddly against some of the more brutal and serious moments (including murdered teens, kidnapped and enslaved children, etc.), but the mythology Johnson creates is intriguing. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Filled with sarcasm and humor, this book will appeal to all teens . . . Teachers will love the high-level vocabulary (and content clues), sophisticated mathematical and scientific references, and non-stop allusions to writers, poets, books, and historical events."
VOYA

"Johnson's debut novel is original and thought-provoking."
School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Grotesquely disfigured Myron Horowitz—with his "twisted, noseless face" and body of an eight-year-old at age thirteen—presents an obvious target for brutal bullies at his high school. But after a mysterious explosion at school leaves him "unconscious and totally naked," Myron comes to discover that he is actually an "immoral lycanthrope," a weremammal of some unidentified kind who can transform himself from human to animal. He also discovers that he is targeted for kidnapping and murder by various hostile sources—in fact for many kidnappings and many attempted murders—spread out over almost 300 densely-written pages. The strikingly original narrative voice initially feels clever and ironic, but after a while comes to feel self-indulgent and wearisome. As Myron's bizarre misfortunes accumulate, a lot happens, but the story itself seems to go nowhere. When Myron has the thought that "he had been knocked unconscious entirely too many times recently," this is because chapter after chapter ends in this way. When Myron reflects that the first time he "stared down [his] own death," he was "really scared," but now "it's just something that happens to me," it is because at this stage in the novel, random, unmotivated violence keeps occurring with stale predictability. When the narrator comments that "life becomes a series of meaningless incidents," it is because the novel itself, ending with little closure or resolution, has itself become such a series. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Christina Miller
The narrator of Hal Johnson’s debut fantasy novel talks to his readers as he describes how Myron Horowitz, a short, nose-less, sexually immature, ninth-grade lycanthrope (not exactly), uncovers mysteries of his past to find his place in the world. Victimized by bullies at Henry Clay High School in “suburban western Pennsylvania,” Myron is temporarily rescued by fellow lycanthropes (one is the narrator of the story) only to be captured by other lycanthropes who plan to kill him or use him for their own ends. Finally escaping, he painfully adventures across the country to New York City, Chicago, and eventually to Portland and St. Clemente Island, fending off his captors all the way to discover “who he is.” He faces danger and extraordinary physical challenges with bravery and levelheadedness, and meets many colorful characters along way. Filled with sarcasm and humor, this book will appeal to all teens, especially animal lovers and fantasy fans. Like the narrator, readers will be filled with Schadenfreude as bullies and bad guys suffer and meet with awful and violent ends. Johnson depicts vivid city and country scenes, and beautiful images of nature and wildlife that are supplemented by Teagan White’s delightful drawings of the lycanthropes. Teachers will love the high-level vocabulary (and content clues), sophisticated mathematical and scientific references, and non-stop allusions to writers, poets, books, and historical events. Though plot details get unwieldy at times, this book is enchanting and funny, filled with glib narrative asides, and superbly concluded. Ages 15 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
A dark, surreal adventure follows Myron, in the company of animal shape-shifters, as he seeks his true identity. Myron, a ninth-grader who appears to be about 8 years old, is "short, scrawny, and hideous." Found, apparently abandoned and terribly disfigured, and adopted five years before, he has been the victim of relentless bullying. In the wake of a mammoth fight, he finds himself effectively kidnapped by human/animal shape-shifters called lycanthropes. He quickly discovers that he, too, is a lycanthrope, but no one, not even Myron, knows his true form. In this doom-laden tale it's impossible to tell friend from foe. As Myron stumbles from one misadventure to another and witnesses numerous deaths, he encounters the few remaining lycanthropes in existence, and the lying, scheming lot of them want to use or kill him. He's misguided by, among others, a gorilla, spends the winter in the woods with a moose mentor and is held prisoner in the Fortress of Id. Ultimately, Myron's charged with transporting a "doomsday device," and his goal becomes reaching the Rosicrucians in hopes of learning his purpose and animal identity. The tale is not for the faint of heart: There are scenes of torture and a reference to sexual excitement induced by violence. Drenched in nihilism, the story's message, as voiced by the archly intrusive narrator (and one of the lycanthropes), is, "once you remove the possibility of being a good or bad individual, life becomes a series of meaningless incidents." This quixotic, uber-intellectual debut, laced with literary and historical references, has some comedic elements, but is, perhaps, too smart for its own good. (Fantasy. 14 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Myron Horowitz, an adopted orphan, is severely disfigured as a result of a childhood tragedy. A ninth grader who looks about eight, he is a misunderstood loner and suffers from constant intimidation. But a life-altering experience changes things forever when he unknowingly unleashes powers defending himself against a school bully. He discovers that he is a lycanthrope, a human/animal shape-shifter. The story is told by Arthur, who is also a lycanthrope. Sought after by others of his kind, Myron begins a bizarre and mysterious journey that involves kidnapping, misadventures, murder, dangerous tests, and numerous secret societies, all while trying to discover his true form and purpose in the world. Johnson's debut novel is original and thought-provoking, especially the unique mythology intertwined with literary and historical references. Unfortunately, the craziness of the plot makes it hard to stay committed and focused. Arthur's witty and snarky narration is entertaining but not enough to engage readers in the plight of the protagonist.—Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park High School, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547751962
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 710,018
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

I don't think Hal Johnson is a very unusual sort of a guy. He's just—well, the average American citizen and family man, the kind that are the backbone of the nation. I admire him and like him. I like his attitude. Until, that is, he gets behind the wheel of an automobile. At that point he changes. He changes from a careful, considerate citizen—to a menace.

–"Driven to Kill," 1948 driver's safety film.


Teagan White is a freelance designer and illustrator from Chicago, currently a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Visit her website at www.teaganwhite.com.

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Read an Excerpt

1.
   A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly.
   It would be easy to paint a sob story here, but I am trying to remain objective. So: Myron Horowitz, short, scrawny, and hideous, had no friends. The year before, in eighth grade, he had three people he used to eat lunch with. They had perhaps been his friends, but one had moved away over the summer, one had transferred to a private school, and one had gone through puberty and come out popular. Myron Horowitz had not only not gone through puberty, he had not grown an inch in the last five years, not since his accident. People viewing him from behind assumed he was eight years old; from the front, a different set of assumptions came into play. His face had been partially reconstructed, and it was probably very well done, considering what was left to work with. But it was still a twisted, noseless face, and Myron ate alone now. Worse than eating alone, though, was the walk home. At Henry Clay High School, students who took a bus home passed from their locker through the gymnasium to convene in the parking lot; students who walked home took a different route, through the cafeteria and out through a side door, along a wooded path to the sidewalk. Very few students walked home, but Myron did, and so did Garrett Bercelli.
   Garrett was not overly large for a freshman, but compared to Myron he was a heavyweight champion. His hands especially were large, and, as they say, sinewy. He probably had reasons for his antisocial behavior, but, frankly, they don’t concern me. He can die and go to hell for all I care, once he has served his purpose in our narrative.
   There are disadvantages, I am aware, to beginning our story this fast. Perhaps I should have given Myron a few scenes at home, curled up with his adventure books or bumping elbows with his parents at their cozy breakfast nook. But really, who wants to see that horrible face eat? And anyway, we have places to go. Myron, two years ago, had had a fourth friend, but he died; that part is pretty funny, when you think about it, and if you are heartless, but I barely have time to mention Danny Fitzsimmons. We have places to go. People will turn into animals, and here come ancient secrets and rivers of blood.

   It was on a crisp October day in suburban western Pennsylvania, beneath the golden panoply of leaves some people find so charming, that Garrett Bercelli introduced himself to Myron by picking him up and playfully throwing him into a pricker bush. Two days later he cut right to the chase and punched Myron in the stomach. That was a Friday. On Monday, Garrett really went wild; he forbore (so he explained during the course of the beating) to touch Myron’s horrible face, but he pummeled the rest of his body quite mercilessly. At last Myron spat up some blood, and Garrett ran away.
   Obviously I cannot literally enter Garrett Bercelli’s head, to observe the shadow parade of his thought processes, but I have investigated the matter enough that I believe I can produce a fairly accurate reconstruction. Garrett ran home, convinced, I believe, that he had killed or maimed poor Myron. This fact in itself did not concern him, but the risk that he would be caught, and punished, was enough to send him hiding in his bed, the way he had as a child. He hadn’t meant to kill Myron, after all, and this should be taken into account. It had all been juvenile high spirits, and things had just gone too far. Garrett could hardly remember the beating, he could just remember the feeling it had given him, the rushing sound in his ears and the reckless abandon. Whether it gave him an erection I do not pretend to know, but let’s assume the answer is yes. The idea that anything as wonderful as the emotions he had undergone in the course of that afternoon could land him in the reformatory was intolerable. He went to school the next day filled with righteousindignation and a healthy dollop of fear (he had, in fact, tried to feign sickness, but his mother would have none of it). Imagine his relief when he saw, in homeroom, Myron at his desk, alive and apparently hale. The relief would have quickly turned to excitement. You may recall the feeling you have had on first discovering that the author of a favorite book had written a dozen more, perhaps under various pseudonyms, the feeling of a world of possibilities opening up. Garrett did not know what that felt like, because, as best I have been able to determine, he had never finished a book not assigned to school, and few of those. As I said, he probably had reasons for being so violent, reasons that do not concern us. But what Garrett felt at that moment was analogous to a reader’s joy. Here was something he could do, something he was good at and could get away with.
   “ Tuesday, fish sticks; Wednesday, spaghetti; Thursday, meat loaf . . .” the loudspeaker was intoning for the week, when Garrett leaned down a half inch from Myron’s ear.
   “If you miss one day,” he hissed, referring either to school or to their meetings after and behind it, “I will kill you.”
   Myron was less pleased with the arrangement. His entire body still ached from yesterday’s pummeling, obviously, and there had been blood in his urine. He considered telling his parents, his adoptive parents who had taken him in after the accident. Dr. and Mrs. Horowitz were good people—you don’t adopt a deformed eight-year-old unless you are reasonably unselfish—but it’s no use pretending they understoood him. They made a game effort, but a child who never grew an inch from the moment he had been found crawling dazed and torn up along the Maine coast five years ago never really made much sense to them. When Myron looked upset (for example), they cheerfully tended to remind him that at his next birthday he’d be allowed a cell phone, unaware that his true worry was that he’d have no one to call. They were always unaware. I don’t want to have a pity party for Myron Horowitz. He ends up okay, and I have frankly had worse days than his that week. But I have not had many days worse than his worst. Myron was scared, and he was too scared to admit to anyone that he was scared. He had thought about carrying a knife, and had even packed one to bring to school that day, a steak knife from his mother’s kitchen, but it fell out of his knapsack somewhere between home and school, which may have been for the best. Tuesday was a long, slow day; every day at school is a long, slow day, but this one was somethingspecial.
   That Tuesday afternoon, after school, Myron decided to try leaving by a different route. From his locker he slipped downstairs and into the lobby, the one with the trophy cases and the door to the administrative offices. If he could go out the school’s wide front door, he would be on a busy street, where Garrett would, presumably, be unable to make his assault. Myron may have been a little afraid that Garrett would make good his threat, his threat to kill him, but he was absolutely terrified of another beating like yesterday’s. He knew it would be shameful to cry, but he was afraid enough that he could feel the tears welling. He was often called “Baby” by his peers, just because of his height, and he was desperate not to have the nickname lengthened to “Crybaby.” “Chip” was the nickname he had selected for himself and that no one used. Garrett’s nickname for him, which was catching on around the school, was “Faggot.”
   As Myron approached the front doors, he heard a voice behind him, saying, “Young man”—the vice principal’s voice, he realized, as he turned around.
   Myron said nothing in response.
   “Where do you think you’re going? ” asked the vice principal, a Mr. Zaborsky, famous at the country club, perhaps, for his slice, but known at Henry Clay primarily for having hair in his ears and a butt crack that peeked over his belt like a mischievous gremlin when he was standing up, only to leap forth with a yawning maw if God forbid he should bend over. This is all terribly unfair to the man, but Myron was so terrifyingly ugly that it is sometimes necessary to remind those of his acquaintance that ugliness is all around, and not limited to that hideous face. Right now, in fact, there is something ugly happening under a rock nearby; if you are near a rock, turn it over and you will see a worm going to the bathroom. Ugly things are happening in your intestines as you read this. A million million ugly microbes are crawling on your skin. Have you even been in a dim room and seen, in the one ray of light that lanced some distance away through the window, a sparkling miasma of dust motes? And have you then thought to yourself, Thank the good Lord I am not on that side of the room, in that sunbeam,—for if I were, every breath would require the inhalation of that furry, filthy air? It’s just as dusty where you’re standing, of course, but you are able to pretend it is not. That’s the kind of deception you’re apt to put over on yourself when you see Myron. Perhaps that was what Mr. Zaborsky was thinking as he wiggled his hips and tugged at his pants.
   “Home? ” Myron asked.
   “Home? Home? Don’t you know,” Mr. Zaborsky intoned, rather enjoying the moment, “that all those not taking a bus are to exit through the cafeteria? ”
   “I didn’t think it would matter,” Myron said, in a very quiet voice. “This way is closer for me, is all.”
   “Closer for you? ” Mr. Zaborsky rather began to strut. He hooked his thumbs in imaginary suspenders. It is likely that in his mind he was a great orator, and he only on occasion had the opportunity to employ the art that was his secret calling. “The exit to which you are headed is reserved for faculty, staff, and visitors. Students are privileged with their own twin exits, one through the gymnasium and one through the cafeteria. Now, what would happen if we all decided to ignore the rules, and just go our own merry way? Anarchy, that’s what! Do you know what anarchy is? ”
   With infinite patience, and, doubtless, not without kindness and wisdom, Mr. Zaborsky perorated about the benefits of a law and the pandemonium of lawlessness. When he finally watched Myron turn and trudge back to the cafeteria, he beamed with the saintly face of someone who has “made a difference.” But don’t be too hard on him. It is no easy thing, never to have made a difference; and, to be fair, when he heard the news the next morning, he momentarily wondered if he could have done anything to prevent it. Quickly he concluded that he had done all that was humanly possible, but he did have that moment, and that moment is something.
   Nervously, to himself, Myron hummed as he entered the cafeteria.
   You have perhaps already anticipated that Garrett Bercelli, tiring of the wait, unaware that his date had been held captive by Zaborsky’s endless lecture, had been himself drawn into the cafeteria, where he was standing, awkwardly, when Myron entered.
   The cafeteria was a foolish place to try anything, because, although the room was empty now, the internal wall facing the hallway was nothing but a row of large windows. Across the hall were the windows of the nurse’s office, and the nurse always stayed late; she could easily see anything untoward happening in the cafeteria, if she just looked over. But Garrett was too excited to waste time dragging his prey outside.
   “You know you’re going to have to pay for making me wait,” he said. He was smiling as he said it, and it was a genuine smile. He was so happy, his hands were shaking.
    “Leave me alone,” said Myron unconvincingly. He was a very tiny boy, I hope I have stressed, as well as an ugly one.
   “What happened to your face, anyway, faggot? ”
   “I don’t remember,” Myron said, which was true. He remembered nothing of the accident, nor of his life before it.
   “I’m going to give you something to remember.”
   After that some other things happened, and then there was a loud crashing sound. The nurse, and then several teachers, came running. (Mr. Zaborsky was in the bathroom.)
   As a safety precaution, the school had some years before begun installing shatterproof glass, the kind with hexagons of chicken wire inside it. Then new safety advisories had indicated that the chicken-wire glass was in fact more dangerous than regular glass, for reasons that should become clear soon, and the school had stopped the replacements; but it had never gotten around to undoing what it had done.
   This bit of history, dug up and reported in the local papers that week, is necessary for an understanding of how it was that Garrett smashed through the regular windows between the cafeteria and the hallway, and smashed into the reinforced shatterproof windows of the nurse’s office. He became caught in the chicken wire, several feet off the ground, and hung there, bleeding.
   And there in the cafeteria—it was weird. All the tables and chairs, all of them, were tipped over and scattered to the periphery of the room. And alone in the center lay Myron, unconscious and totally naked.
They never found more than a few strips of his clothes, although the air was filled with wisps of cotton and loose, tumbling threads.

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Interviews & Essays

Barnes & Noble Review Interview with the Wolfman: Hal Johnson

In my earliest memory of Hal Johnson, the author of the young adult novel Immortal Lycanthropes, he's screaming at me to go to sleep. In the mid-'90s, Hal was my counselor at one of those camps for the kid who's always getting beaned reading Philip K. Dick in the outfield. I took the camp's cartooning course; Hal, a comics aficionado who has worked at Midtown Comics Times Square for twelve years, introduced me to everything from Winsor McCay and George Herriman to Daniel Clowes and Peter Bagge to Chick tracts and Tijuana bibles.

I styled myself as Hal Johnson's Boswell, ever at his elbow, recording and recycling his mots, even offering to "edit" his fiction, which he miraculously allowed me to read. (If I knew who Boswell was at that age, I have Hal to thank.) When my interests shifted from comics to literature, Hal was there to make recs, risking his job to tell a twelve- year-old why The Rachel Papersis preferable to The Catcher in the Rye. His instinct for mentorship led me to the Amises, Barthelme, Borges, Calvino, Eco, Percy, Pynchon, John Kennedy Toole, Arthurian legends, and Icelandic sagas, long before any was "appropriate."

Which brings us to Lycanthropes. The line on this book, courtesy of some panic-stricken Internet critics, is that it contains "inappropriate" content. Apparently, the nostrum "as long as they're reading" only applies if they're reading well below grade level or intellectual capacity, never if they're being challenged. This anxiety may account for why many kids can't really read, why they'll enter college calling Twilight a "guilty pleasure" despite never having read anything harder. Hal's debut results from, and embodies, a promiscuous love of reading that never once paused to ask a guidance counselor's permission. It encourages reading not only by being a terrific book but also by showing what the imagination of a lifelong book lover can look like.

Disregard its overly literal title (should Robin Hood have been called Populist Bandits?). Immortal Lycanthropes has nothing in common with other popular vampires 'n' werewolves offerings. Its hero is a disfigured orphan, Myron Horowitz, who discovers that he's an undying were-animal after a schoolyard bully brings out the beast in him. This attracts the attention of a lot of folks—furry ones—who either want Myron in their corner or smell his blood. Myron's is both a quest for self- discovery (what am I? Which animal am I?) and a quest for survival.

I recently spent an afternoon with my old friend, in his native habitats—the bargain stalls outside the Strand near Union Square; Hal's book-stuffed apartment in Astoria, Queens (which looks a bit like the Collyer brothers live there); and the Dungeons & Dragons campaign he runs each week in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Here are some insights, opinions, and reminiscences from the guy who made me love books—and who will, I believe, have the same effect on hordes of kids. —Stefan Beck The Barnes & Noble Review: Describe the world of Immortal Lycanthropes.

Hal Johnson: Immortal Lycanthropes takes place in a world where there live among us, secretly, humans who can turn into animals—or animals who can turn into humans. There is one representative for each species of mammal, and they're pretty much immortal. Only under the claws or teeth or tusks of another immortal can they die. Young Myron Horowitz does not believe he can turn into an animal, nor does he believe he is immortal and several millennia old, but a lot of other people believe it, and many of them want Myron dead. Or they want to use him for their own nefarious ends. Or they see in him a ray of hope in their horrible lives.

So, in true adventure fashion, Myron is forced to flee, alone, across the country, seeking in vain someone who will help him understand what's going on, and who he is. Along the way he meets various animals in the shape of people—an alcoholic anarchist gorilla, a paranoid survivalist moose, a dashing bearcat who wants to be Myron's biographer—and a host of secret societies, which have their own agendas.

BNR: When I think of myself at the age this is targeted at, this would be the book I'd want to read. This is Illuminatus! for kids.

HJ: I deliberately set out to write a book I'd think was awesome at a certain age. There's a continuum for a certain kind of person, where you read Pinkwater, and eventually you move on to Vonnegut or Illuminatus! and then Pynchon or something. But there's a gap between Pinkwater and Vonnegut, and I wanted to fill that gap. That was my audience—the ones who read Pinkwater and said, "What else do I read?" because everything else has too many dirty parts for them. You shouldn't put this in, but when we were at camp and Barry picked up my Illuminatus!...

BNR: The copy with one missing page?

HJ: He ripped the page when he dropped it.

BNR: He dropped it in shock.

HJ: A piece tore out, which made it look like I'd marked it. It's an 800-page novel! You don't know you're going to get that one [sex] scene!

BNR: There's nothing like that in Immortal Lycanthropes. People have complained about violence to some extent, and also—well, a tiny thing at the beginning. I mean, right on cue, my mom asked me, "Can they really put that in a kids' book?" But I won't spoil it.

HJ: Immortal Lycanthropes is not dirty, but it's kind of seedy, and so people react to the seediness. Because every time Myron walks down a street in New York it's all hopheads and perverts. It's not very explicit, but a little bit of that and they start to worry. But, look at Myron—I think it's reasonable for someone who comes from a small town and has to spend the night on the street in New York to see everything as—as Homer Simpson would say—pimps and CHUDs.

BNR: But they didn't let you keep everything in there, did they?

HJ: I took out stuff. They were very good to me. I think if I had fought for anything really hard I could have kept it in. I had to fight for the scene where the tapeworm comes out of the frog's cloaca. But they let me keep it. And they're like, "This is really gross." And I'm like, "No, this is the best."

BNR: Are you concerned at all about the title? That people will just look at it and say, "Oh, he's jumping on the supernatural schlock bandwagon"?

HJ: It kind of worries me, because at a certain point this book is out there—and everyone who comments on it or is interested in it is someone who's interested in vampire or werewolf books, and I think they'll be extremely disappointed. I think they'll be very angry that this book—it wasn't my goal to deceive them. It wasn't like I wrote this book and called it Blood-Drenched Gothic Vampire Love. If a whole bunch of Twilight people pick it up by mistake, I guess that's good.

BNR: It might change them, change their taste. That's my interest in—I don't read YA, but I have a sense of what some of it is like, when I go into a bookstore and I see they have a whole section of Teen Paranormal Romance.

HJ: Paranormal romance—which I guess I've never read, except for Bram Stoker or something—was for several years the only growth market in books. This was the thing that was getting bigger after manga tanked, so God bless them. As long as they're reading something, am I right?

BNR: You know that's my bête noire, of course, the person who says, "At least they're reading." The expectations of what they're able to read, or deserve to read, are so low...

HJ: Well, you read an old book, and often the main character might be a novel reader, and her father will be like, "Why are you wasting your time with those novels? You should be reading Thucydides!" The idea that any kind of reading is good for you is really a fairly recent one. On the other hand, I read a lot, and a lot of what I read is comfortable. It's obviously more fun to read something you're comfortable reading. If you read an academic book, and it's outside of your discipline, you get lost really quickly.

When I was a kid, my father had kind of an idea of what kids should read. This was kind of where I got this nineteenth-century boyhood knowledge, because it was all Stevenson, Verne, and Twain. When I was in first grade, I read a lot of Stevenson, Verne, and Twain. And then by the time you hit second or third grade—this was discouraged. Even as late as sixth grade I had a teacher say that we couldn't read Huck Finn, because no kid in sixth grade can understand Huck Finn. Now, it's true there are things in Huck Finn I couldn't understand. I read it when I was in first grade and I didn't understand a lot of it, but I loved it. It changed my life. It wasn't because I understood every single part of it; it was because I understood the part that I had to understand. I've read it many times since then. It's not like in first grade I understood anything about race relations, but I understood the part about being free and floating down a river on a raft and how this was what you couldn't do as a child, and how this was exactly what I wanted to do as a child.

BNR: This idea that you can't have anything before you're ready for it—it makes no sense. Having something that you're not ready for stretches you, obviously. It's like exercise.

HJ: On the other hand, if you have something that's too far ahead of you, it's like exercise in that if you can't lift the barbell at all, you're not going to get stronger.

BNR: But there are very few things that you can't understand period.

HJ: Years ago I got Moby-Dick from the library, and it was an edition for kids. It wasn't expurgated. It was all the text of Moby-Dick, just with awesome pictures. The idea was that this is an adventure novel! You read Treasure Island, you read The Count of Monte Cristo, and then you read Moby-Dick! The idea that this would be a kids' novel at one point in history . . . I have two [Thomas Babington] Macaulay editions, and they're pitched for probably like ninth grade, and they're his essays. They have a pretty good introduction, and footnotes and stuff to help you. I love these things. I pick them up when I can. I have one of [Edmund] Burke's Speech on Conciliation, and it's kind of sad because in the beginning it mentions how [nasal Poindexter voice] "This has been a staple of high school reading for centuries, and it looks like it's in no danger of disappearing!" [Laughter]

BNR: This is the truth swept under the rug whenever people talk about what's right for kids. A scant hundred years ago they were expected to read and understand things that you're not expected to read and understand in college, for that matter. But it's not like you have any specific pedagogical intention with this book.

HJ: When Arthur Hong [a were-binturong] is narrating the history of what he was doing in Cambodia in the prehistoric days, some of the tribes he talks about are real, old, pre-Khmer Cambodian tribes, and some of them are from, like, Edgar Rice Burroughs books. It doesn't matter. This is not your chance to learn about Cambodia. I could just be making this stuff up. So, in a way it's a reference, but if you don't follow this reference up, it's no big deal.

BNR: But when you see a lot of things like that, it suggests, "This person writing this knows about all these other things, hence, there are all these other things to know about." It's just sort of curiosity-inducing. You may find out that it's not real at all; you may find out that it is real and then go down that path of exploration. A book like The Hunger Games doesn't refer to anything outside of itself. It doesn't compel you to do any further reading about anything.

HJ: It makes you want to read Battle Royale.

BNR: Speaking of kid-on-kid violence, your book opens with a scene of intense, physical violence-style bullying. Was that just necessary, plotwise, or was that something you wanted to address explicitly?

HJ: I'm surprised you didn't ask me, "Was that a mercenary cash-in on a hot topic?" No, part of the point is that Myron is persecuted everywhere he goes.

I don't think it's any surprise to you that I don't really like school. School is just institutionalized violence. When you're writing a book, you tend to present institutionalized events in the most visceral way. Having him be ground down by the factory-education state would be more tedious to read, whereas having him beaten up would be more fun to read? That sounded wrong. But it's hard for me to think of childhood without violence.

BNR: Describe your experience with that.

HJ: I certainly knew kids who got it much worse than I did. I don't want to pitch myself as a bullying victim but rather as someone who got in fights a lot. Sometimes there were more people on the other side of the fight than on mine, so that's a little bully-ish. When I was in school I considered violence to be dramatically different from anything like, you know, teasing. Teasing was what you get, it's freedom of speech, who cares? But I resented being stolen from, pushed down stairs, or hit with lacrosse sticks.

BNR: This is why I consider you a success story. Rather than saying, "Well, I went through puberty and everything was okay, and I stopped doing these things that people find odd, and I became cool—instead, the success story is in continuing to do exactly what you've always been doing, whether it's D&D, or comics, or reading constantly, and not giving an inch, and making a success specifically by virtue of that.

HJ: Regardless of whether one is a success or not, if you persist in something, it becomes more acceptable.

BNR: Can you prepare me a litte for this Dungeons & Dragons game tonight? And since I'm giving you a soapbox to make D&D more acceptable, can you describe any ways in which it fed your literary process?

HJ: The game takes place in A.D. 989 in the real world, or the real world as they believed it to be in 989—so just over the hills, in the forest, there are probably giants and dragons and an enchanted castle with demons in it. The party is concerned that the world might end in the year 1000, and they've been laboring for years to seek out the ancient wisdom to save it. Today they're traveling from the ruined city of Ctesiphon, in present-day Iraq, hundreds of miles to a lake in present-day Iran known as the Throne of Solomon, to seek, underwater, secret lore from the only still-burning sacred fire of Zoroastrianism, the Atur Gushnasp.

Before I started running this game, some fifteen years or so ago, I knew nothing about history. But with the game set in the real world, or a facsimile of the real world, I had to read a lot and do a lot of research, or my players would catch me out in an error. It's really amazing; everywhere you go, it seems, there's a local legend of a dungeon or a monster or a mystic place, and I have to be ready for wherever the players want to go next. Consensus holds that Albania has the most disgusting monsters (the Kuçedra is especially unpopular), but India the most dangerous.

I hate when novels parade their research before you, so it's not like my book has so many references to the tenth century. But the idea that everywhere you go, there's something weird and interesting, certainly influenced my way of imagining a picaresque novel.

BNR: You've said that boys' adventure novels, from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, were a big influence on Immortal Lycanthropes. Can you recommend some good books for boys and girls today, not necessarily from that era?

HJ: Sure! Daniel Pinkwater's Bushman Lives!, John Christopher's The Guardians, Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur, Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co., Robert C. O'Brien's The Silver Crown, Jack London's The Sea Wolf, E. C. Myers's Fair Coin, Mark Twain's Huck Finn, Barbara Chapman's Escape from the Nuisances, and Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick and Mark the Match Boy.

BNR: So, the book is out now. Is there anything you wish you could change?

HJ: My girlfriend complained there was not enough emotion in the book, but I don't know what she's talking about. There's anger, there's nostalgia, there's self-pity. If there's a fourth emotion, I'd like to hear about it.

October 22, 2012

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    Is this pack active

    ?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    <>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2014

    Syn Pack to all

    Syn Pack has replaced Mad-Eye Pack

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2014

    Original Exceed Packs Introduction

    (Idea credit goes to Lilywolf of Horseclan. No, I am no her.) <br>
    A white and silver female wolf padded in, her eyes flashing in the light. She jumped up on a rock, looking out at the surrounding wolves. "Hello," she said. "My name is Andromeda. I am the Alpha Female of the Nebula Pack, and Founder of the Exceed Packs. Have you ever wished you could have a solid pack that never dies? A pack that never allies with another pack only to find that pack dies out soon after, or never comes as promised when they are needed? A pack without the cluttered background of dozens of other cks clamouring to steal your pack members? There is now a solution to that. That solution is the Exceed Packs. The Exceed Packs are similar to the cats' Pact Clans, but for wolves. The Exceed Packs are made up of the Nebula, Mad-Eye, Night, Grace, MacMoon, and Brave Packs. These packs rp only with each other, and even have a pack designed to steal prey, attacks packs, and generally cause mischeif. This is the Mad-Eye Pack. The six packs rp realistically, and follow the Exceed Pack Rule Code, so everything stays realistic and runs smoothly. This includes our ranks, identical for each pack, which are as follows: <p>

    Alpha (2) <br>
    Beta (2)<br>
    Gamma (2) <br>
    Delta (2) <br>
    Hunters (Unlimited) <br>
    Scouts (Unlimited) <br>
    Pups (Unlimited) <br>
    Omegas (3) <p>

    That is the Exceed Packs! The search is 'lycanthrope' just to reiterate a bit. The results may become mixed up, but the general layout contains these places: <p>

    Exceed Pack Introduction (Which is what you're reading.) <br>
    Meeting Place <br>
    Pack Descriptions <br>
    Pups That Need RPers <br>
    Exceed Pack Rule Code <br>
    Weather Vote <br>
    Pack Borders <br>
    And more! So explore, and you'll find what you're looking for eventually. Welcome to the Exceed Packs!"

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  • Posted September 27, 2012

    Clever Story

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The voice of the narrator is excellent. I liked how he thought the book was about him, and the fact that it didn't seem to bother him that he wasn't present for most of the story. In all fairness, I do know the author. For an impartial review, you should read Cory Doctorow's on BoingBoing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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