Written by Guest Author Kerry Gillard
Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson is the latest in a series of Supernatural TV tie-in novels. TV tie-ins are never going to be recognized as great works of art in the literary world, but if well written, they offer fans new adventures that often have storylines that would be impossible to portray on-screen.
The story takes place around Donner Lake, referencing the Donner party who became lost in a storm and, as legend goes, resorted to cannibalism to survive. Dean, Sam and Bobby travel to the Tahoe National Forest in search of something that has been attacking and killing hikers – something they believe to be a wendigo. In a nice shout-out to the beginning of the TV series, the wendigo plays a significant role as the monster antagonist in the first third of the book.
However, once they have taken care of the wendigo and are leaving, the boys and Bobby find that additional hikers and rangers have gone missing after the wendigo was eliminated. Bobby contacts an old friend who determines that the new monster is an aswang. At first I thought the name of the monster was made up in order for Dean to have fun with (which he does) but it is actually a Filipino legend, and a very scary one at that. According to legend, the aswang sucks out your organs – using most of them to sustain itself – then stuffing the unwanted organs from several victims into one body. Some of the articles I read about the legend then say that the body is reanimated, which is used to very creepy effect in Fresh Meat.
While Dean and a fellow hunter, Jason, search the woods for the aswang and its lair, Sam and Bobby travel to a different town to collect the items they need to kill it. While there, they run afoul of a group of vampires. At first, I wasn’t sure why the vampires needed to be in the story; (sure, they added some danger to the Sam and Bobby part of the story) it wasn’t really until the end that it became clear why they were after them, so they could possibly have been left out until that part. It was fun however, to have yet another regular monster from the TV series showing up.
Dean and Jason get separated in an attack by the aswang, and are subsequently caught in a huge snow storm. Dean manages to get to a ski lodge where he finds a group of rangers on avalanche patrol, but an avalanche takes out most of the lodge. Dean is then trapped with the aswang and his victims, while Sam and Bobby fight vampires and the storm trying to rescue him.
Needless to say Dean, Sam and Bobby prevail in the end but there are many precarious situations that all of them find themselves in and there is a pretty decent twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming.
I felt that the book was well written and the author had a real handle on the characters. The book is set in the first half of season seven and she brings in Dean’s depression and Sam’s battle with Lucifer without it taking over the story. Another thing that I enjoy about the TV tie-in novels is that you get to hear the inner monologue of the characters and I thought that in this case, they fit very well with the characters as we know them from TV, and with the timing of the storyline.
I have read all of the Supernatural novels and enjoyed them all; although there are a few that really stand out, and I would be happy to put Fresh Meat in that category. If you are a fan of Supernatural, I would definitely recommend reading this novel.