New York City. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. Whatever you know it as, New York has provided the backdrop to many horror tales including: Mimic, The Devil's Advocate, King Kong, Maniac and many more. In Night of the Wendigo, Scottish author William Meikle takes the city and twists its own history in a frosty, nightmarish, action-driven horror story.
I was vaguely familiar with the concept behind what a Wendigo was from Ravenous, a 1999 film starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. Other than that, I had no real knowledge of the villain of the piece here. However, I am familiar with Meikle's work and had no fear in picking up this title.
There is little in the way of pre-amble, with the author bumping people off in horrific fashion almost immediately. Night of the Wendigo isn't quite a gorefest but certainly doesn't shy away from violent action and brutal deaths. This is illustrated early on when the heads of bodies are discovered, frozen atop one another, complete with one of the corpse's genitalia inserted in its recently deceased owner's mouth.
The majority of the action is in a similar vein to most zombie tales with the seemingly unstoppable walking dead pursuing the living; but I would find it difficult to pigeonhole Night of the Wendigo since it incorporates different elements from various horror sub-genres. However, one of the characters in the book perhaps sums it up best when they comment on finding themselves trapped in a B-movie, "Zombie Icemen take Manhattan"!
In keeping with this style of action-horror, Meikle sets a relentless pace with the storyline but has not sacrificed the development of his key characters and he keeps up with and cuts between plot threads of various individuals without a sense of interruption. Well-timed injections of humour made me smile, such as references to James Cameron's Aliens and a sly nod to The Proclaimers too! I'd suggest that such references serve to draw the reader further in to the story and to add further depth to the key players.
I've read a number of books and stories by William Meikle now and I'm familiar with his style of writing. As with most of his work, Night of the Wendigo feels like it would translate incredibly well to the big screen with epic set pieces, plenty of action and a couple of damsels who get themselves out of distress too! That is not to say that Night of the Wendigo is shallow. There is discussion of various myths and folklore alongside contemporary science and thinking here.
Critically, the worst part of this book for me was the cover. The antagonist pictured on the front bears no resemblance to the icy undead conjured up in my mind's eye by the author's prose. This is a fairly small issue and ought not to give any potential reader undue cause for concern.
There's something special about horror set in sub-zero conditions that just adds another dimension to such stories for me: 30 Days of Night and The Shining are excellent examples of tales that have been greatly enhanced by the characters having to deal not only with their respective antagonists but also to contend with the adverse weather conditions and the isolation thrust upon them by the harsh climate. Meikle's Night of the Wendigo, at times, reminded me of elements of various films such as The Day After Tomorrow, John Carpenter's The Thing, and any number of zombie flicks. This is far from a criticism! Meikle has a talent for conjuring up wonderful imagery and drawing the reader into the story; and does so yet again in a fast-paced, testosterone-driven action horror tale.