I have often wondered about some details in how lycanthropy works. On the surface it is simple: At full moon some individuals gain a somewhat more canine view of life. However, the full moon is a single moment in time for our whole planet and thus occurs simultaneously all over the world, which means that it can be at any local time including the middle of the day. Most stories, on the other hand, points out that it is the at the rise of the full moon that the metamorphosis occurs, but if the actual full moon took place in the early afternoon before the lycanthropy triggering moonrise it is clearly possible that the moon is less full at the end of this night than at the end of the previous night. In addition, there does not seem to be any need to actually see the moon to start changing so I wonder how important the moonrise could be. What would happen to a lycanthrope at the center of the Earth? Or in low-Earth orbit? Or at the surface of the moon?
Kim Whitefield does not discuss this in her book Benighted. Instead she describes a world very similar to our own, but where lycanthropy is the norm. This is a world where 99.6 % of the population turns furry and unaccountable every full moon night, and the rest are forced to work for DORLA (the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity) with the purpose to make sure that society will continue to function when the vast majority of its population has turned into beasts. In the centre of the story is Lola Galley who is a “bareback” (non-lycanthrope) working as a public defender, and her latest case is a man who bit off the hand of one of her colleagues during the last full moon which quite soon turns into a murder investigation and the uncovering of a bigger and bigger plot.
Whitfield has put a big effort in the world building in the book. There are detailed descriptions about how a world like this would function, but I am not convinced that it would be like it is described in the book. It doesn’t really feel like a sustainable sitation the way it is described. In addition, the main protagonist is a person I don’t like at all, combining the spirit of the Spanish inquisition with large amounts of self-pity. Furthermore, the book is wordier and slower than it needs to be.
However, Benighted is, despite its flaws, an interesting book. It makes an unusual twist on how prejudices may form a society, how the needs of the majority marginalise the minority, and how warewolves can organise a civilisation. I just wish there could be less torture involved.