Something’s been eating Samantha’s friends, and she’s more than a little afraid that it might be her. The 28-year-old dilettante lives in Chicago with her hipster chums, staging artistic happenings in a state of prolonged scenester semi-adolescence, wanting to create a sensation with her artwork, and to earn the esteem of her peers. One night, she runs into Ansel Rupino, a tortured, enigmatic artist who infects her with lycanthropy during a one-night stand, devouring Sam’s world in one stray bite. As her infection consumes her, Sam’s creative and destructive expression intensifies exponentially—people’s lives become her ever-bloodier canvas, their lifestyles her tattered tapestry. “Saamaanthaa” pursues Sam’s struggle to define herself as a woman, as an artist, and even as a human being within a distinctly Middle American urban landscape. Can she save her soul and keep from losing her mind as she confronts the leering face of her own ever-growing monstrosity?
“Admittedly, I was not a fan of werewolf stories prior to reading this book, but D. T. Neal managed to convince me with this novel, to make me a fan of werewolves, or at least the ones in this novel — there is just something very visceral and powerful in these dual-natured beings that feels uncomfortably close to how maybe most people are, that sense of a friendly face and a smile concealing monstrosity underneath. Not that most people are monsters; I think most people aren’t. But in this story, there is a powerful link to the animal roots of humanity in the werewolf, the beast within, and what it means for each of us. But I liked watching Samantha struggle with her identity, the before-and-after of her existence, and the very human issues she wrestles with, whether it’s dealing with the body hair she’s sprouting, or indigestion from having just eaten a neighbor’s dog (!) — that human aspect to the book actually managed to suspend my disbelief.
Samantha is a flawed, very human character, and she has limited vision and, I think, difficulty coming to terms with just what she’s got flowing in her blood. There is a real sense that she’s bitten off far more than she can chew. And the other characters offer their own angles and edges to the story, either as accomplices, rivals, or victims of Samantha. Admittedly, Sam’s “friends” are not a group of likable people, but that’s really the point, I think. Can we root for people we don’t like? Can we still feel pity for them as they are victimized by the horrors of the world despite our loathing of them? I think Neal asks those uncomfortable questions of the reader in “Saamaanthaa,” and I found it to be a refreshing push of the envelope.
I was immediately drawn into the world of “Saamaanthaa.” The well-drawn characters, the plot, the locale–everything. D.T. Neal’s style of writing is modern, direct, enveloping and rich in detail without being baroque and cumbersome. Additionally, I am an artist myself, so the examination of art and artists that is inherent in the book was obviously of interest to me. Darkly funny, sociologically astute and at times utterly horrifying, D.T. Neal’s “Saamaanthaa” held my interest intensely and satisfied me with its unforgettable, surprisingly touching and horrifying ending, and left me hungering for more stories from this author.”
“Short-story writer D.T. Neal has produced a stunning novel that works both as a Chicago-flavored werewolf story and as a treatise on art, self-expression, and popular culture. Neal’s apparently sophisticated awareness of technology and the online world seems an essential part of the fabric of the story until his main character abruptly destroys her own means of access to the Internet and the story careens toward increasingly concrete issues of identity and control. Along the way, Neal incorporates virtually every form of written communication, from text message to poetry, with both an easy familiarity and a feeling of measured perspective; he examines writing and art with an objectivity that contrasts strongly with the shock and passion and subjectivity of the story. Artworks are created, performed, and destroyed by the characters, and Chicago itself serves as much more than a backdrop. The DIY nature of the book itself mirrors the DIY aesthetic of the characters; in that sense the book itself serves as a kind of statement on the role of the artist. Looking forward to more from this exciting new voice in speculative fiction.”