Supernatural: Fresh Meat – Review

Supernatural Season 7 title banner

Alice Henderson’s novel Fresh Meat, based on the series Supernatural, is like an extended Monster of the Week episode full of action, adventure, gore, and plenty of our beloved Winchester-brand angst. There’s also lots of humor and one-liners reminiscent of those in the show. The characters felt like themselves, with dialogue that I could easily imagine being delivered by Jensen, Jared, or Jim Beaver, and overall it did a great job of fitting into the established mythology of the show. It could have been an episode itself, and Henderson seemed to handle the pre-established universe with ease, but it wasn’t without its flaws. It’s a fun, nail-biting adventure with Sam and Dean, but the story felt a bit uneven because of a plot twist that I don’t think was pulled off as well as it could have been.

Fresh Meat takes place during season seven in between the episodes “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” and “Slash Fiction,” so Bobby’s alive and the brothers aren’t hiding from the leviathan to the extreme degree they were forced to after “Slash Fiction.” Sam and Dean head off to the Tahoe National Forest to hunt a wendigo that they think can be traced back to one of the members of the Donner Party. Once they kill it a new set of strange deaths show up, and they realize that there’s another creature, one they haven’t dealt with before, preying on people in the same area. In a mad rush to find the new threat and a weapon to defeat it before the creature kills again, Sam and Bobby run afoul of vampires, while Dean gets caught in a terrible blizzard on a mountain that threatens to bury him and everyone else in an avalanche. Sam, Dean, and Bobby are really put through the wringer in this one with one crisis after another, and none of the people they meet are quite what they seem.

Supernatural-Fresh-Meat book coverWhat I like about this book is that we get into the brothers’ heads, something we can’t actually do in the show. We get a glimpse into their most private thoughts, giving a deeper insight into their characters and the decisions they make. I simply love the part where Dean is thinking about Castiel. It’s more of a tangent, since it wasn’t vital to the story, but at this point during season seven Dean still thought Cas was dead. He’s mourning him and wishing that he were there, but he also feels conflicted because Cas betrayed him and brought the leviathans to earth. We get a look into the complex thoughts of the emotionally constipated Dean Winchester and that was great to read. The action is fun too, and the characters get to do things we’ll probably never get to see on screen due to budget and location restraints, such as Dean swimming his way through an avalanche. The bits of humor are also a nice touch, such as Sam and Dean staying at a motel decorated with clowns, or everyone’s reaction when they discover that the new creature they’re hunting is called an aswang (pronounced: ass-wong). The references to things from the show, even in passing, really helped tie this into the Supernatural universe and make you think that this could have happened to them. Sure, there are times when the author has to explain the basics of the universe that any Supernatural fan knows like the back of his or her hand, and that can feel awkward, but it’s a necessary evil that I can overlook.

But what I am not too thrilled about is the unevenness of the story. It starts out with a prologue from the point of view of one of the members of the Forlorn Hope, a group of people from the Donner Party that set out to find help. Now I love the Donner Party, that is a subject I’ve always been fascinated by, so starting the book out with that definitely got me to pay attention. (I may have done a happy dance in my chair too. I freaking love the Donner Party). But the wendigo plotline that the prologue establishes gets wrapped up in the first third of the book. The rest of the story is about finding the new creature, the aswang (I may have laughed longer than I should have at that name), leaving the first part of the book feeling like a separate story. The wendigo got Sam and Dean to the area, and that seemed like its only real purpose. It wraps up too quickly and neatly after it was emphasized so strongly at the beginning with the prologue, which had made it seem like the wendigo was what the book was going to be about, but then it took a turn in a completely different direction. Not to mention the fact that it’s kind of a huge coincidence that there were two supernatural creatures hunting in the exact same area. It didn’t help that all of the side characters we get introduced to all feel very suspicious and are used as red herrings at one point in time. When we finally learn what the deal is with each one of them, the explanations usually feel kind of cheap, like you know that the character was only written that way to make you suspect them.

I’d say I give this book three out of five stars, or maybe a more Supernatural-related rating system of three out of five pies. It was fun and I liked how Sam, Dean, and Bobby were written, but the plot could have been handled better and there wasn’t much development for any of the characters other than the main trio. If you just want a mindless, exciting read full of action and Winchester-shenanigans, then I’d recommend this book, but if you want a more rounded story then you’ll have to look elsewhere.