by Jason Starr
PUBLISHER: Berkley UK (UK) | Ace Books (US)
RELEASE DATE: 26th April 2012 (UK) | June 2011 (US)
FORMAT: Paperback, 341 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side, Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss’s betrayal. Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life-and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys’ night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality. As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their “pack,” they were talking about much more than male bonding. And as he falls prey to his basest instincts, Simon must accept that werewolves exist if he is to turn the tides of his fortune… (Goodreads)
THE PACK by Jason Starr is an interesting novel that cleverly intertwines the supernatural with realism, creating an intriguing plot that fits neatly into the crime genre as well as the paranormal.
Protagonist, Simon Burns, is unexpectedly fired from his job as an advertising executive, throwing his family life into disarray as they are now reliant upon the wages of his wife, Allison. His unemployment means that they can no longer afford a nanny for their son, Jeremy, forcing Simon to become a stay-at-home dad. At first he struggles to adapt to his new life, having an almost comical first few days trying to cope with the trials and tribulations of a three year old.
This all changes when Simon and Jeremy meet three single dads at the park, with Jeremy striking up an instant friendship with the other children. Simon also finds it easy to talk to the parents, Michael, Charlie and Ramon, finding his first friends since his departure from work. Ramon and Charlie are easier for Simon to talk to, with Michael forming the epitome of mysteriousness, but he still feels a calming ease around them. They can all run exceptionally fast, and all have an eerie way of knowing when their sons need attention, particularly nappy changes.
Simon becomes more optimistic after meeting the other dads, but after meeting them for a beer, his life will never be the same again. His senses of hearing and smell are heightened, as is his sex drive, with him wanting to sleep with his wife at every opportunity. However, when his ex-boss is found murdered by an animal attack Simon begins to suspect himself, not understanding his new circumstances. His marital difficulties may appear to be solved, but at what cost?
Simon is a very well-developed main character, with the reader thrown straight into his emotional turmoil at being fired, despite seven years good service to his company. The author does a brilliant job of portraying all of his emotions, as well as giving the reader an insight into the emotions of other characters in the novel, such as Simon’s wife, Allison, which gives a sense of realism to the situation. It could be argued that realism is unnecessary in a paranormal novel, but most of the time the plot can become so entwined with the supernatural that all ‘normal’ human elements are lost, but Starr captures human emotion perfectly.
The narrative is told from a third person perspective, focusing on the mysterious Michael as well as Simon, although we never find out too much information about the other single fathers. I would suppose that more information may be revealed in future novels, but this was a downside of the book for me, that a lot of the mysteries are left unsolved. However, a lot of character development centred on Simon and Allison, detailing their marital difficulties, which I did really like, and felt that the novel could still have been a good read without the werewolf element.
In terms of the plot, it does take a while for the supernatural to happen, with not a lot occurring other than the protagonist’s struggle to come to terms with what has happened to him. There is a lot of potential for future books after the novel’s conclusion, although I did feel that the ending of the book was rushed. However, I did enjoy the ending, with there being a nice bloody battle to end everything on a violent high.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but what let it down for me was the fact that it felt a little sex obsessed. The werewolves are turned on constantly, with a lot of the chapters focused on their sex lives, and they have a very derogatory way of speaking to women. They order them around, using blunt commands that I didn’t like and like to discuss their many ‘conquests’. It was a good read despite this, with mysteries left to unravel in future books.
THE PACK was very good at communicating the realistic feelings of the main character, and I really liked how the supernatural werewolf element tied in with the major life events of unemployment and marital difficulties. I thought the ending was a little rushed, and didn’t like how sex obsessed the characters seemed to be, but as a first novel in a series it set the scene very well.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. The Pack
2. The Craving