Book Review: Supernatural: Carved in Flesh

carvedinfleshI’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of tie-in novels.  Despite having read my share of them for the site already, more often than not, these type of books make me feel like they’re dragging an episode out.  Worse yet, there are times when it becomes painstakingly clear that the writer doesn’t understand the characters given to them, while telling an otherwise good story. It can be a devil’s trap for some who aren’t fans of a series. Supernatural: Carved in Flesh, I can safely say, isn’t one of these occasions.


Here’s the synopsis from Titan Books:


After Sam and Dean Winchester lost their mother to a mysterious supernatural force as young children, their father taught them how to hunt and destroy the paranormal evil that exists in the dark corners of America. Following their father’s demonic death, they discovered that they are descended from a long line of hunters and chose to continue their mission.

Reported sightings of a hellish hound and the discovery of newly dead desiccated corpses bring Sam and Dean Winchester to Brennan, Ohio. But when they catch the monster canine it turns out to be “Frankenmutt”, a reanimated patchwork of pieces from separate dogs. Soon the brothers are on a trail that leads from mad scientists and biotechnology to a centuries-old alchemists, walking corpses, and an ancient and malevolent power.

A Supernatural novel that reveals a previously unseen adventure for the Winchester brothers, from the hit TV series!

This story follows the boys not only fighting “Frankenmutt,” but also dealing with a madman named Conrad Dippel. Dippel is far more dangerous than anyone, including the Winchesters, suspect. Sam and Dean’s relationship is further strained for a host of reasons, most of which have to do with Sam’s mental condition.  Add to that,  they have just lost Bobby to Dick Roman.  This leave Dean wanting nothing to do with this case while the leader of the Leviathans still lives. However, Sam convinces Dean that whatever is causing the problems in Brennan could be worth hunting as a potential weapon against the Leviathans.  It’s grasping at straws, but Dean agrees because the strange way the killer dog leaves its victims might do more than they have been capable up to now.

This could have easily been put into Season 7 of Supernatural without any hesitation. It’s got the right feel for a Supernatural episode. There are some genuinely creepy moments, and even some a little gut-wrenching as you see plans enacted for ulterior reasons. Dippel uses two helpers in this book, his former a rather whacked mortician and the other a rather desperate doctor. The latter’s story plays on the heartstrings, but nevertheless goes through with the plans to reanimate something as gruesome as “Frankenmutt.” Characterizations are spot on with the Winchesters. Tim Waggoner, the author, knows these characters quite well. When they deliver lines, you immediately hear the familiar voices of the brothers saying them aloud. As serious as things get throughout the book, there is still a certain sense of humor that comes through. Nothing so slapstick that it takes away from the situation, but it keeps the story from getting bogged down in the mire.

Having said that, while the overall story is a good one, there are sections that I’m not certain worked as well as others. During the course of the story, Sam is having fitful dreams about the boy’s first solo hunt. This was done while John was away on a hunt of his own, leaving the boys with a father and daughter. The father in question was made aware of what’s really out there by the death of his wife, but wasn’t quite cut out for the life of a hunter. He did, however, make fake ID’s and such for those that were in the life. He raised his daughter as best as he could, but she was still interested in the things that go bump in the night. She too wanted to stop those things that killer her mother, but had no one to help her do so. Dean, even as a young kid, boasts about how he’s helped his dad numerous times (which he hasn’t) to destroy ghosts and other monsters. Things go from bad to worse in the midst of this, and you can find out the rest by reading. While it was a very interesting story, and I think better used for a short story novel. It does mirror some of what is going on here, but it feels every bit like filler. It’s not that it isn’t written well, because it’s a very good story. It’s just a flashback to something that doesn’t necessarily drive the story along.

I’ve also got to point out that the book says they haven’t dealt with anything similar to this before. While this does have some differences to it, one or two a bit more drastic and permanent, there was an episode in season 3 that has a similar theme. The episode in question, Time Is on My Side, follows the boys chasing down Doc Benton. The character was one that had been searching for the key to eternal life and had been harvesting new organs from unsuspecting people when his were destroyed or became rotten. Sam was trying to find a way to weasel out of Dean’s deal with a crossroads demon. In this case, the Doc Benton didn’t need to piece together other things to find out if it would work, because he had been doing the experiments on himself and has been alive since the 1800’s.

Despite the few things, the book itself is well worth the read. It’s got a lot going for it, which is important when reading tie-ins. It’s made me excited to see the next installment of Supernatural reading material and especially another by Mr. Waggoner.

Thank you to Tom Green, with Titan Books for sending us a review copy.  Supernatural: Carved in Flesh is available now in stores and online.