A Second Glance: ‘Thor’ (1991)

Ryan Covey

Popular culture is an impossibly large and ever-growing thing. It’s impossible to see everything, and as a result, some things fall through the cracks. Maybe critics panned it, maybe it was a commercial flop, maybe it just didn’t catch on at the time. Whatever the case, these bits of pop cultural refuse are overdue for A Second Glance. In this edition, we look at Wayne Smith’s werewolf novel Thor.

Last Time on ‘A Second Glance’: Punisher: War Zone (2008)

The horror genre has lots of great monsters but few get their due less frequently than werewolves.  There are countless great stories about vampires, zombies, ghosts, and more.  There are only a handful of decent werewolf films and even fewer examples of good literature on the subject.  One exception is Wayne Smith’s Thor.  The book is a simple premise; Uncle Ted is a werewolf and only one family member knows it.  The twist is that the family member in question is the dog, Thor.


The Plot

Thor is a loyal pet German Shepherd.  His pack consists of a lawyer, his wife, and their three children.  The father got the dog for the children despite hearing that Shepherds can be very protective and territorial.  He is an obedient dog and listens very well but reacts erratically when he believes there is a threat.  A con man extorts the family by coercing the dog to attack him, complicating things.

The family goes to visit Uncle Ted at his home in the woods.  Normally, Uncle Ted is Thor’s favorite person in the entire world but something about him doesn’t smell right.  The police find mutilated bodies in the woods near Ted’s home so he comes and moves in with the family for a while.  Thor now knows there’s something suspicious but the family dismisses his attempts to warn them as territorial behavior.  Can he find a way to stop Uncle Ted before he hurts the rest of the pack?


Through the Eyes of a Dog

The most unique quality  about Thor is its perspective.  Wayne Smith embodies the dog with thoughts and emotions that feel real.  Smith may be exaggerating a dog’s intelligence but he does it with a sincerity that makes it seem logical.  Thor is a loveable protagonist, a simple creature that only wishes to love and protect his pack.  Much of the book deals with Thor’s day-to-day life and the character is fun to read about.

The book fills in narrative gaps from the perspective of Thor’s family, but he is still unquestionably the protagonist.  Much of the suspense and terror comes from the helplessness of Thor’s predicament.  We are forced to suffer alongside the dog as he tries in vain to warn the family.  Uncle Ted’s eroding relationship grows tension as the man realizes what the dog knows and becomes more hostile.

It’s this unique perspective which makes Thor special.  The novel is proficient but simple and derivative as far as plot goes.  It’s our hero that makes the book special.


Why Does ‘Thor’ Deserve a Second Glance?

It’s a crime that Thor isn’t a household name in horror literature.  The book is charming, frightening, and extremely engaging.  The characters are three-dimensional and the monster is as sympathetic as he is scary.  Unfortunately, the horror market in the 90s wasn’t good for anyone not named King, Koontz, or Rice and the book wasn’t successful.  A film adaptation of the book called Bad Moon was written for the screen and directed by Eric Red.  The film premiered in 1996 but was a critical failure and a box-office bomb.  Both book and movie faded into obscurity.

The book has been out of print for several years but has attained a cult following due largely to the rediscovery of Bad Moon.  Wayne Smith only went on to write one other book, a vampire noir called Nightlife, which only exists as an ebook.  Paperback, Mass-Market, and Hardcover copies of Thor are relatively cheap online and Amazon has an ebook version as well.

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