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Book Review: Hybrid by James Marshall Smith

Hybrid is a taut, suspenseful tale of vengeance, deceit, and man’s folly in believing humanity is top of the food chain.

In the vein of Jurassic Park, Fatalis, and Sabretooth, Smith’s Hybrid is a story of man vs nature, with man’s folly as the catalyst. This terrible hybrid exists because some foolish dog-fighter released a rare, and highly dangerous breed of canine into the Canadian wilderness. A pup resulting from this dog breeding with Canadian grey wolves is transplanted into Yellowstone National Park as part of Operation Wolfstock- a plan to reintegrate wolves into the region. The greater size, and doubly dangerous fighting instincts of the Tosa Inu breed has just plunked a deadly apex predator down into one of the US’s most frequented parks, just before the Labor Day crush.

Attacks on livestock, then people, begin happening around Yellowstone. Despite the evidence of canid involvement, Chief Ranger  Jack Corey refuses to believe it could be wolves. A strong proponent of the program that repopulated Yellowstone and its environs with the grey wolves that over-hunting had decimated, Corey is not going to accept that at least one of his wolves has gone rogue and is a serious danger.

Despite threats against his safety and freedom, vet Dieter Harmon investigates the possibility of a rogue wolf on his own. Intertwined with the man vs nature thread is Harmon’s rivalry with Corey, the devastating loss of his wife (that drove him to Colter, and still gives him nightmares), and his friction with his kids, and their nanny, Amy, not to mention the storythread with the creepy Loudermilk clan.

This book was a quick, well-researched read. I enjoyed the science behind it. I’d never heard of the tosa inu breed before. I really wanted to smack Corey upside the head. I get the value of repopulating the area with wolves, since it was humanity’s fault they had vanished from the area to begin with. It was irresponsible of him not to accept that there was a rogue, a single wolf, causing the deaths, and to act accordingly.  

The characters came alive for me. Josh was my favourite. The tough old llama keeper was a godsend to Dieter, with his knowledge of the wilds, and animal behaviour. I never knew llamas could be so mean, if necessary! I do wish we’d followed the wolf hybrid more, seeing how the animal functioned. Washoe behaviour born from his rogue state? From the tosa inu influence. A combination of both?

There is an afterword, detailing what happens to several of the characters in the weeks to years following the incident. Despite that, there were a few things that felt incomplete to me. What were Michael’s consequences of disobedience? What was the purpose of the Loudermilk clan to the overall scheme?

Part of the afterward includes information regarding the Beast of Gevaudan, and the speculation it s some sort of hybrid wolf. This I found fascinating, for despite previous research into this particular legendary creature, I hadn’t heard the hybrid theory. It does make sense, though. How many other legendary beasts were hybrids of some sort? I can only imagine the havoc a hybrid big cat, with the rogue temperament of the lions of Tsavo and the size of a liger, might wreak.  

****This book was reviewed for the Manhattan Book Review.

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