Contented Reader

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The Last Werewolf

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The Last Werewolf

Glen Duncan

Alfred A. Knopf

When I make my werewolf movie, I’m going to eschew the wolf-man image, what someone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer called the “puffy gorilla.”  No awkward hominid with a wolf’s face and claws, fur over an overmuscled human torso.  No, in my werewolf movie, the person will simply turn into a wolf.  A perfectly ordinary wolf, which is plenty scary enough, don’t you think?  If you don’t think a wolf is scary enough, go piss one off, then come back and leave me a note in the comments section letting me know how that went for you.

The Last Werewolf is going to make a good werewolf movie for someone, though not for me.  It has a compelling plot, enough Deep Thought to keep it interesting but not so much that it stops being exciting, lots of violent sex and sexy violence, and good writing, too.  It’s that last that is the pleasant surprise.  Werewolf novels with lots of violent sex and sexy violence are a dime a dozen in the horror section of the used book store, but I’m having trouble thinking of any werewolf novel I’ve ever encountered that is anywhere near as well written as this one is.

This is undoubtedly why the publisher has chosen to present it as a ‘literary’ novel, in a simple, elegant hardcover, rather than putting a lurid werewolf clutching a half-dressed woman with huge tracts of land on the cover of a cheap paperback.  I find myself wondering how I would have reacted to the book if it had been packaged that way.  Would I have recognized the good writing if the cover and blurbs hadn’t cued me to look for it?  Or would I have breezed through a story of the last werewolf in the world, hunted by the assembled forces that have killed all the rest, and set it aside without thinking twice about it?  People tell us not to judge a book by its cover, but I do, all the time.  It’s hard to see past an ugly cover and find the good book inside.  I think even the choice of font can make a huge difference in the way I perceive the quality of a book.  Publishers who are good at making a book’s physical appearance cue the reader to the sort of reading experience she should expect deserve all the huge piles of money they are presumably raking in.  By the way, have you seen the cover art that Kathleen Jennings created for the new Small Beer Press edition of The Child Garden?  As soon as I saw that book, I wanted to touch it, and to read it.  Not only do we judge books by their covers; a cover is a significant part of the way we read a book.  That’s something I still find disorienting about reading e-books.  Everything about the physical presentation of The Last Werewolf sends a clear message: This is a book to be read seriously, despite its sensational subject matter.  And so I read it seriously, and saw its merits.  I’d like to flatter myself that I would have recognized its merits even if it hadn’t sent that message so clearly.  And who knows?  Maybe I would.

Speaking of images, the back leaf of The Last Werewolf shows a picture of the author, and he looks so uncannily like the main character he describes that I’m pretty sure Glen Duncan is a werewolf.  Given the description of werewolves in this novel – there’s no Angel-style living on rats in this book; it’s yummy crunchy humans once a month for a well-balanced werewolf diet- I think it would be a good idea if someone kept a close eye on this man.  And don’t go to book signings on the night of the full moon, just in case.


Written by Contented Reader

September 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Posted in Reviews


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