In-Human (2010)

Author Anna Dusk
Publisher Transit Lounge
Length 288 pages
Genre Werewolf
Blurb None Listed

Disclaimer: Please note this review reflects the opinion of the team at ScaryMinds and should in no way be construed as representing the views of the AHWA Shadows Award Judges. This review is for the edification of ScaryMinds readers and does not constitute a “literary criticism” or any other criteria the Shadows Judging panel may take this year.

While I'm personally involved in the Shadows Awards this year I would point out that my review following in no way reflects my opinion of the source material from an Awards perspective.

Talk us through it

Sally Hunter is a sixteen year old gal living in the rural community of Oatlands, Tasmania. A number of murders and disappearances have occurred around Oatlands and Sally may know a thing or two about what's going down. Besides a rising sexual urge Sally is also a “monster dog” or werewolf with a rising appetite for human and animal flesh. Piss Sally off and you are likely to be Oatlands equivalent of a can of Pal.

Werewolves travel in packs apparently and Sally isn't on her own howling at the full moon, and she may not even be patient zero in the local lycanthrope outbreak. Who's doing all the killing, how did Sally become a dog, and exactly what is she going to do about her main rival Coralee?

Ready to run in the moonlight?


“Well maybe this ghostdog mutated tiger thing killed Bevan but made Nigel into what it was. Is.” - Reeny

Every now and again a book arrives on your review pile that defies easy categorisation and forces a re-evaluation of how you view the novel form. In-Human, the debut novel from Anna Dusk, is just such a book and continues the literary tradition Down Under of delving into the werewolf theme. Apparently we love us some morphing as a dark genre nation and two thumbs up for that trend to continue. The other notion that bubbled to the surface of my mind on opening the novel was a reader's query about the Taswegian pre-occupation with cannibalism. Actually wasn't aware of that to be honest but I guess the whole Alexander Pearce thing resonates with folks down that part of the world. While a werewolf novel doesn't deal with the concept of cannibalism as such, lycanthropes are not human after all, author Anna Dusk hails from the Apple Isle leading to further proof that there's something slightly sinister in any Artist from that part of the world. That would be sinister in a good way in case you are wondering. So I had me a debut novel by a Tasmanian venturing forth into werewolf country, how did it howl at the moon?

Dusk writes in first person narrative form from the viewpoint of Sally Hunter, (name not by chance one would imagine), her sixteen year old anti-hero. Sally is going through some changes, an increased sexual urge being the least of them, as she also makes mince meat of the local Oatlands' residents in ever increasing numbers. As opposed to other werewolves in the area, she is one of a pack and not the alpha female, Sally has given herself over to her full animal urges with no thought as to hiding what she is or staying under the radar. To a large extent Sally is self centered, lives in the now, and really isn't overly concerned with the well being of anyone who might cause her the slightest inconvenience. Typical teenager then, just with a lot more teeth to back up the attitude. Actually it wouldn't be a bad thing if you got your daughter to read In-Human rather than that Twilight garbage, even with her personality faults, and who doesn't have them, Sally Hunter is a far better role model for young girls than the insipid victim Bella Swan couldn't ever hope to be. Maybe a slight proviso on the language Dusk uses in her novel there, more on that later. Besides digressing in this paragraph I simply wanted to point out the Author writes from Sally's viewpoint with the entire novel flavoured by that viewpoint.

The other thing I guess I should point out is that Anna Dusk is writing in a phonetic style, that is the Author writes as one would hear speech in the township of Oatlands. This can be disconcerting when you begin the novel, it's English but not as we know it Captain, but over the course of the first block of the novel you will get with Dusk's jive and groove along to things. Solid enough writing and Dusk doesn't let the style drop at any stage of the novel's progression, you could almost hear the Writer's sweat dripping as she keeps things rocking along in Sally speak. So don't expect the standard paragraph structure of proper English, Dusk writes more in a flow of conscience style that reflects the new journalism of Hunter S Thompson rather than the tradition dark genre styling of a James Herbert. As stated somewhere above In-Human will force you to re-evaluated your definition of the novel, and that's not such a bad thing.

Anna Dusk writes in a style that will have you re-evaluating what you thought the English novel should be. Don't expect just another horror novel, you are in for a treat here.

In due course you are no doubt going to read about how In-Human is a discourse on the power of the female sexual drive, after all that's apparently what fuels the dark genre according to some post feminist writers. So Jason really needs our help and understanding over that camp counsellor thing he has happening, it's an Oedipus thing or something. Don't believe it, there are no doubts all kinds of themes that will launch a thousand English Lit papers, but at it's core In-Human is simply a werewolf yarn told from a pretty unique angle. What you see is what you get, nothing more nothing less.

Okay so I hinted at the language used in the novel earlier in this review and I have to say that Anna Dusk turns the air blue with s-grenades, f-bombs, and c-nukes, going down. It can be pretty raggedy and this may offend some readers who I would suggest should stick to Stephenie Meyers and little lambs dancing under rainbows in Julie Andrews world. You may need to sit down here but word to your mother, swearing does tend to go down fairly regularly in the Bush folks, Anna Dusk let's her characters talk in their normal vocabulary rather than in some transplanted English parlour room make believe society way. Make your own mind up on that one, though teen males may get a tad more female plumbing information than they are really up for. If you feel uncomfortable sorting out pure cotton tampons at the supermarket then you might just be opening the wrong book here.

Anna Dusk writes a brisk tale about werewolves from a lycanthrope's perspective and keeps her yarn romping along, including lots of gore, body parts, and sex along the way. It takes a while to get a hang of the writing but once there you'll be caught up in what is going down and keep reading to find out where it might be going. Don't expect a standard conclusion to this one, it's not a standard novel so the unexpected should be expected. My own theory that it was all a psychological journey with a revelation in the final chapter turned out to be completely off the mark, darn got to stop watching those U.S thrillers. A very solid debut novel that should deliver Anna Dusk a ready audience for her next novel. Anna Dusk has successfully redefined the modern novel in Australia and I for one am going to dial into her next release.

A couple of final points and we'll close this review off. Go buy In-Human today kids and settle in for a quiet Sunday at home reading.

The illustrations that adorn the outstandingly good package from Transit Lounge are all the work of Anna Dusk herself, so there's an added bonus. You can check out more of Ms Dusk's artwork via her website right here. Well worth the time though the actual site itself is last century form a design point of view. Hey I do work for an online design company, I'm allowed to comment.

Seems a bunch of people are comparing In-Human to a cross between Catcher In The Rye and Buffy. I would suggest those people take their hands off it and leave the comparisons of dark genre material to dark genre reviewers. I can see the appeal of Catcher In The Rye, though I would have gone with Billy Liar (Keith Waterhouse 1959), but the whole Buffy thing is trite and overused to be honest. Sally Hunter is not a hero here to save us all, In-Human isn't plastic American entertainment made to dull the masses.

In-Human is available online from Transit Lounge or I believe from most good bookshops. I'm seeing a price of $29.95 for the trade paperback, well worth the investment.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

  In-Human will have you howling at the moon for more from this Author.