Monday, October 17, 2011

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites. Because pets need to fight the supernatural, too!

What do you do if you have a supernatural problem? You call a paranormal investigator, right? Depending on your preferences, that could be Hellboy, or Harry Dresden, or Abraham van Helsing, or Ginko... but what if you're a suburban pet? Then you had better howl for the Beasts of Burden.

It sounds like a hokey concept: neighborhood dogs (and a cat) stumble across supernatural problems and have to solve them. To tell the truth, I don't know why it works. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the problems are all animal-specific. For instance, it all starts off with a haunted house story, but it's a haunted doghouse, and the spirit is a restless pooch.

The stories are not cutesy. I was surprised at how gut-wrenching some of the stories are, both in heartbreaking subject material and in gore. Not that either one is gratuitous, by any means. Both are used correctly for the stories being told.

I think that's what really makes Beasts of Burden successful: it has a solid concept, and it sticks to it. The animals look and act like animals in the beautiful watercolor art, and they display personalities that are recognizable both as people personalities and animal personalities.

The first collection in the series, Animal Rites, contains a number of short stories. Some of them are only a couple of pages long, and some are longer, but there is no overall plot other than the characters getting more comfortable in their roles as the canine (and feline) protectors of Burden Hill. They don't go looking for trouble, but when something spooky comes along, they find themselves caught up in it.

The cast is delightful. If you're an animal person, you're sure to find a character you like. I would go through the various characters, but I don't know enough about dog breeds to identify them all. I can't go without mentioning Pugsley, the scene-stealing, smart-mouthed pug. I don't normally like pugs, but I'll make an exception for this one. My favorite character was the Orphan, the one cat member of the group. The Orphan has the right level of detachment and craziness for a cat.

If you like talking animals and supernatural stories, you owe it to yourself to look for Beasts of Burden. After all, it's almost Halloween, and a great time to curl up with a good book full of spooks!

No comments:

Post a Comment