"Howl" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Unnerving

howl renee miller large

Written by Renee Miller
2019, 102 pages, Fiction
Released on 27th June 2019


Last year Horror DNA really dug Renee Miller’s novella Stranded, noting, “If you’re a fan of Arctic or survival horror, Stranded is a simply but superbly written pulpy addition to the genre which you will read in a couple of sittings, possibly one. The blood-letting is over-the-top, the action is unrelenting, and the chance of survival is minimal.” We’re pleased to say Miller is back with Howl, another very trashy but very readable blood-soaked horror novella where once again the chance of survival is minimal to non-existent! In this latest outing we abandon her remote Canadian island, with all the action taking place in an isolated cabin, somewhere on the road to Denver.

Howl follows the same blue-print as Stranded. As in the previous novella, a group are stuck and stalked, with no hope of rescue, by a vicious beast which picks them off one by one. If you like short and violent stories, there is a lot of fun to be had here; it is neither deep, original or has anything new to say, but is a fine example of a throwaway page-turner. It will probably remind you of lots of other things you have come across, but I read it in one eighty-minute sitting and chortled heartily all the way through. Towards the end there are also a couple of very gross sequences, including a guy inserting his penis into an eye-socket (after he has plucked the eye out of course….); that was a new one on me. But amongst the mounting body count there is a sly sense of humour.

The plot is minimal and can be described in a few sentences. Three work friends are on a road trip to Denver for a work convention they visit every year. Usually they fly, but this year have decided to drive and find themselves in a snowstorm. Their sat-nav takes them on a detour down an isolated road which goes nowhere and before long they are low on fuel and running on fumes. Abandoning the car, they sense they are not alone, picking up the pace they discover a cabin with another two, armed, people already inside. It turns out they have already been there for a few days, are short of food, and there is something very nasty outside.

Although Howl is an entertaining read, it lacks the ambition of Stranded, which has a much more complex story revolving around a group of would-be stars making a virtual reality television show in the very north of Canada. It has more characters involved, the television show premise is clever and the creature more creative and nastier. However, Howl is a solid companion piece with ultimately a very straight-forward story: five people get stuck in a remote cabin and have to fend off a giant monster. This is very solid monster horror, but we have been here many times before, however, do not let that put you off; Renee Miller is very good at this sort of thing. Neither do I want to imply this author is a one-trick-pony, check out Church, her unpleasant short novel about brainwashing within a religious cult, for a major change of direction. On this occasion there is not a monster in sight, except for man.

Once the five are thrown together in the cabin, the waiting game begins, tempers flare, food dwindles (you can probably guess what is going to happen) and claustrophobia really bites. The three city boys are way out of their depth; one keeps an online blog and a very entertaining game of cat-and-mouse with the beast outside begins. As with Stranded, this is survival of the fittest and Howl has a particularly nasty section where everything is nicely over the top, with a real yuck factor thrown in. The title also gives a clue to the type of beast the five are up against.

The cabin-in-the-woods horror trope might be as old as the hills, but Renee Miller has fun dusting it down for another outing. I was happy enough to tag along and if you fancy some trashy undemanding gory horror, then Howl is well worth checking out.


Overall: fourstars Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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