Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich by David Agranoff

Boot Boys of the Wolf ReichWhat an eye catching cover and impactful title this book has. Include the tagline “Punks vs Nazi Monsters From the Depths of Hell,” and it sounds like the greatest B movie ever in book form. Considering my movie taste, that’s certainly not an insult. Mentioning Nazis and wolves immediately brings to mind the Grindhouse (2007) fake movie trailer that ran in between Planet Terror and Death Proof. It was called Werewolf Women of the S.S and was loosely based on the sexploitation movie Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Oh, and it was awesome.

The story follows Paul, who moves to Chicago from a small town. The move means he finally gets to meet other skinheads — the kind of skinheads who enjoy punk, ska, and the anti-racist lifestyle. For the first time he is with people whose culture he holds dear, and can express himself and fit in. He makes friends, finds a girl, and finds acceptance. It’s then that things start to go wrong. Paul’s gang encounters a group of the  other skinheads, the hate-filled neo-Nazi skinheads.

For the first quarter of the book, I had some trouble paying attention. There was not too much in the way of thrills and spills, apart from the opening back in World War II. After that, we mostly follow members of both gangs and look at their cultures and their day to day lives. The author clearly knows his stuff about skinheads. At the same time we are witnessing Paul’s coming of age. It’s a little bit of a chore to get through. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel invested in the Paul character, or find the insight into the skinhead culture interesting. I did, but I was hungry like the wolf (sorry) for some action. The Nazi skinhead group comes across as a bit of a caricature, spouting hate and being a bit pathetic and almost laughable. In run-ins with the other skins they continually receive a beating.  When the leader of the Nazi skinheads, Tom, beats a black teen to death, the tone of the book suddenly gets much darker and is hit with a vivid realism that isn’t found throughout the rest of the book. It’s the type of action that, unfortunately, could be ripped from the headlines. It’s this hate crime that brings the gang to the attention of exiled and on the run SS officer Klaus Schroeder. At the end of the war, Schroeder fled from Germany to Argentina, but was recently forced to relocate to Chicago. Despite being an old man, he has a relic - an occult wolfskin – which can transform the skins into powerful, inhuman, wolf soldiers.

The key relationship dynamics in the book revolve around Paul, his girlfriend Tracy, and Tracy’s ex-boyfriend Sonny. Sonny used to be in the liberal skins gang but defected to the Neo-Nazis. Much of his rage is fueled by the fact that Tracy is now with Paul, when she should be his. In Sonny’s eyes, what makes things worse is that Paul is mixed race, so he sees this as an even greater slight against him. There are moments when members of the Nazi group are led to question their beliefs and wonder what all the hate is for. There is a particularly good scene where, after getting hauled in by the police, Paul finds himself locked up with a Nazi, and they have nothing to do but talk. All of the Nazi skinheads had some kind of trauma or issue that led them to seek salvation in hate.

In the second half of the book, the gore picks up as the Wolf Reich begin their reign of terror. The wolf transformation scenes are really well written, especially when the racists are first initiated. Loyalties change and the relic comes into the possession of the good skins. This allows them to level the playing field and form a wolf pack of their own. This builds to more than satisfying werewolf gang warfare. If you can imagine it, yes it’s that good. Despite some dark subject matter, it’s an entertaining read, and well worth checking out.

7.5/10

Book Cover Blurb:

Paul has just moved to the big city to finish out high school, and is excited to have made friends with all the local skinheads and punks. It is the summer of 1989 and they spend their days hanging out and having fun, and their nights fighting the local neo-Nazi gangs.

Driven back and badly beaten, the local Nazi contingent finds the strangest of allies – The last survivor of a cult of Nazi werewolf assassins. A war criminal on the run, the old monster has come to America and dreams of starting a Fourth Reich. An army of neo-Nazi werewolves are just what he needs. But first, they have some payback for all those meddling Anti-racist SHARPs…

From David Agranoff, the author of The Vegan Revolution…with Zombies, comes another punk horror epic of growing up, black magic, and kicking Nazi-werewolf ass!

I Am The New God by Nicole Cushing

I Am The New God

This is a DarkFuse novella by Nicole Cushing, who found acclaim with her previous book, Children of No One. I haven’t read it yet, but do have it on my shelf. I Am The New God is about a college student, Greg Bryce, who out of the blue begins to receive letters from a person known as the hierophant. These letters state that Greg is the titular new god and that he will replace the current Christian God. After receiving a few of these letters, as a distraction from an uncomfortable college life, he writes back and engages the hierophant.

Greg is homophobic, refers to his disabled little brother as retarded, and is all-around unlikable so he doesn’t garner much sympathy. Then again, the author doesn’t really ask for any on his behalf. Cushing does a nice job conveying Greg’s feelings of being an outsider and being different, although having pretty girls laughing at him on the beach is a little cliché. Greg seems to go from mild amusement at receiving the letters to buying fully into the idea that he is a god in the blink of an eye. Watching him go from curious to screaming at God, completely mad, and planning to vanquish him is a bit hard to swallow. We learn he has Christian fundamentalist parents so rejecting them and what they stand for might help to explain Greg’s behavior, but it still didn’t seem to be a natural progression. There are questions over Greg’s history of mental illness and medication. It seems that going off his meds is the bridge to his acceptance of the idea that he is becoming a god. It’s not explicit. The potential of using mental illness as a reason for his belief, and then casting the mentally ill in such a negative light, almost as a symptom of evil, doesn’t sit well with me. I might be looking too much into it, but it’s an uncomfortable idea, and although events further in the book provide more explanation, it still felt like a cold plot device.

The hierophant is a far more interesting character, a defrocked minister, who believed he was given the divine task of assisting the new god after talking with a vision of John the Baptist. It would have been good to have more of the focus on him and his backstory. He is more sympathetic than Greg, selfless to Greg’s selfishness. The hierophant has to give the new god seven tasks one at a time that must be completed before he becomes a deity. The first of these is to create a life. It was fascinating seeing his creation, the amusing Hop-frog, sentient in his eyes, interacting with the normal world. In fact, Greg’s discussions of reality were the most imaginative and captivating parts of the book. The destruction of the Hop-frog brought some quite unexpected and graphic violence to the transgressor, his college roommate, Japanese exchange student Arihiro, who becomes his first unwilling disciple. This set Greg’s descent or rather “ascent,” for the rest of the book.

The novella has a very strong conclusion, and the story takes a turn which I really enjoyed. Overall I Am the New God is an unusual but captivating novella. Providing a fresh storyline that keeps away from the traditional, expected tropes of the genre is refreshing. It’s definitely worth a read.

7/10

Book Cover Blurb:

Only a few in the world know the real truth about what happened more than two decades ago. While religions continue to covet their chosen deities, the gods we once worshipped were destroyed in the fall of 1989.

In their place, a troubled teenager named Greg Bryce assumed control–and he’s been presiding over and judging humanity ever since.

This is the tale of what happened before the world as we knew it came to an end, how Greg was driven by truth and lies, divinity and insanity, punishment and mercy, resurrection and murder, to assume his rightful place as The New God.