Posted in books, horror, random thoughts, Vampires, writing

Review and Follow-up on “The Last Werewolf”

UPDATE: 4 AUGUST — Yes! It IS going to be a trilogy!! See this article in USA Today.

 

So, I finished the book this evening when I got home from work.

While standing at the stove, stirring gravy, mind you.

Could not put it down. And I’ve never had much interest in werewolves. Vampires? You betcha. Werewolves were always mindless killing machines. Yawn. Not so, here. I had to know what happened. No spoilers, I promise. ‘Cause I think Dante reserved a circle in Hell for people who publish spoilers. Along with people who talk on their cell phones at the movies. If he didn’t, he should have. I’ll have a word with Satan about it. Anyway… Is it horror? Completely. Lots of blood and guts here. If you could have watched my face while I was reading you would have seen eyebrows raised, smirks, mouth opened in a gasp of surprise. And laughing.

The prose was amazing. IS amazing. Already it is making me take a far more critical eye to my own feeble efforts, although I’m still not sure I’m going to pepper my prose with words like ‘analeptic.’ Then again, why not? Why not make people scurry for the dictionary? Instead of writing for the lowest common denominator, what’s wrong with aiming a little higher? (Glen Duncan would have found a better way to phrase that, it was way too cliche, but I’m two glasses of wine deep here now, so not the best time to strain my brain.) I want to go back through the book and underline and writes notes in the margins and mark passages that I loved and I NEVER DO THAT. In my entire life, I have never marked up a book. Books are sacred. I’ll wait for it to come out in paperback and buy a paperback copy, then I won’t feel so guilty. I think my head would explode if I defaced the lovely hardcover. :::sigh:::

So what did I love? Oh god, the characters. Jake. I’ve never been that far into someone’s head, I’m not sure I’ve been that far into my own head. Give me a Jake in my own life. Do men really have feelings and emotions like that? Is it possible? Maybe it is. As possible as someone being a werewolf. Hey, it could happen, right? And Harley. Everyone should have one friend like Harley. Ellis – Fruit loop, but brilliant. But Jake above all, despite his monthly murder, despite everything, self-aware to the ‘nth’ degree,  dissects humanity with things like this:

Something’s happening to this business of talking about feelings. It’s becoming moribund. The analysand on the Manhattan couch opens his mouth to begin “I feel…” and knows that if he had any decency he’d close it again straight away. Humans are moving into a new phase, one based on the knowledge that talking about their feelings has never got them anywhere. The Demonstrative Age … I shan’t be around to see it. THAT, since I asked the question myself, is how I feel, surer than ever that my clock’s been right all along, that I’ve had enough, that it’s time to go, that I really can’t stand it anymore, the living and the killing and the wandering the world without love.

Phew. It never lets up. Duncan writes as if he’s been around for 200+ years (160 of them as a werewolf) and had the time to think all this through, puzzle it out,  and just now got around to writing it down. There’s an honesty about everything that is uncommon. The reader is completely immersed in Jake’s psyche, and it’s elegant, cerebral, detached, and yet so intimate. I raged at the ending, it wasn’t fair. I wanted to cry, but didn’t. As Harley and  Jake so often remind us, “You love life because that’s all there is.  There’s no God, and that’s His only Commandment.”

He left the ending wide open for a sequel, but sequels don’t seem to be Duncan’s style. I’ll be re-reading this one.

Posted in books, horror, writing

The Last Werewolf

So…

I treated myself to another trip to Powells, because I had ordered a copy of “The Last Werewolf” by Glen Duncan and it was in and I had to go pick it up (they will mail books to you if you’re not in the area, but I pretended  decided I needed to go and save myself the shipping costs, and…well, anyway…).

I had heard about this book a few months ago, don’t recall how or why now, but saw this video which features the author reading a short excerpt. Chalk it up to a combination of his lovely accent, his voice, his persona, and the stunning writing, but as soon as I heard it was released (July 12, 2011) I put in an order for it. I don’t normally cough up the moolah for hardcovers these days, but I couldn’t wait for it to come out in paper. Essentially it’s the story of the last werewolf (surprise!) who has reached the point in his 201 years where he is contemplating suicide. Thing is, there are people who want to keep that from happening. Why? I don’t know. And most evil yet, I skipped ahead and am now laughing about people being eaten by the werewolf. Seriously, it’s funny the way he tells it. But listen to him tell you, and read a bit:

This is one of those books where, as MaryJ says, “With writing like this, does it even matter what the book is about?”

There’s a style of writing that seems to have become the de facto standard these days, although I’ve never heard it discussed. It consists of endless similes to describe something. Something is always like something else. Duncan, at least two pages into the book, seems to be masterfully avoiding doing any of that. For that, I will always love him. Someone please call him and tell him? Thanks.

I must give you a snippet more from the first page (items in bold are italicized in the book, but WordPress italicizes the entire quote, ergo, I bolded instead):

I sipped, I swallowed, glimpsed the peat bog plashing white legs of the kilted clan Macallan as the whisky kindled in my chest. It’s official. You’re the last. I’m sorry. I’d known what he was going to tell me. Now that he had, what? Vague ontological vertigo. Kubrick’s astronaut with the severed umbilicus spinning away all alone into infinity…At a certain point one’s imagination refused. The phrase was: It doesn’t bear thinking about. Manifestly it didn’t.

“Marlowe?”

“This room’s dead to you,” I said. “But there are bibliophiles the world over it would reduce to tears of joy.” No exaggeration. Harley’s collection’s worth a million-six, books he doesn’t go to anymore because he’s entered the phase of having given up reading. If he lives another ten years he’ll enter the next phase — of having gone back to it. Giving up reading seems the height of maturity at first. Like all such heights a false summit. It’s a human thing. I’ve seen it countless times. Two hundred years, you see everything countless times.

Even the book itself is lovely. The cover is matte black, lightly textured paper, the typeface is done in a pale yellow, but the moons on the front, down the spine and on the back are done in a metallic coppery-gold, almost a holographic effect. The edges of the pages are colored red – blood red. Nice touch. It’s a short book by the standards of today’s fantasy, coming in at just 293 pages.

As others have predicted before me, I believe this book will be to werewolf stories what Dracula is to vampire stories. Duncan also wrote a blog post for Powells.com which you can read here detailing his obsession with the movie “An American Werewolf in London,” as well as a discovery of a kind of magic.

I realize it makes more sense to tout a book once you’ve actually finished reading it, but I’m so excited about this one, I had to share now. If my opinion changes when I finish it, I’ll let you know, but I don’t think it will. Now, if only I had some nice whisky to drink while I read it…