Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review of The Last Werewolf

Fantasy and Science Fiction writers have a fascination with extinction. Witness Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn as the exemplar of the type: a lone individual, last of a dying breed, struggling against the inevitable final darkness in an uncaring world. There’s an element of pathos and glamour that surrounds characters like this that makes for a poignant read, and the longing for a past full of joy and possibility is an emotion to which many can relate. Nothing in this world is made to last, and we are all on a long march to the grave, alas.

Glen Duncan’s book The Last Werewolf takes these emotions and adds to them the salt of blasphemy, sex, and a love of life coupled with a world-weariness that creates a great new addition to the genre. Imagine a vampire book with the pretension removed and the animal blood-lust turned up to eleven, all narrated in a voice that drops off-hand jewels of prose a dozen to a page. Jacob discovers that he is the last werewolf on earth after all his fellow shape-shifters have been hunted down and killed by the para-military group WOCOP (the World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomenon). The head of WOCOP has vowed to kill Jacob himself, and despite Jacob’s ennui after 200 years of life, there begins a desperate chase with shifting identities, secret assignations, and fight scenes worthy of Jason Bourne.

Werewolf has an exciting, involving plot, but the real treat in this book is the prose. Glen Duncan creates a likable, wise, and profane mass-murderer in his werewolf, who genuinely grapples with his existentialism and lack of faith. “You love life because life’s all there is. There’s no God and that’s His only Commandment,” one character says to Jacob, and that really seems to be the main message of the book - God or no, we make our own beauty and meaning in this life in which we are all born to die. But to accuse The Last Werewolf of being a “message” book does it a disservice. This is a great fantasy/action-adventure/thriller, with some well-thought out philosophical underpinnings that give it that much more depth for those who want it. Highly recommended.

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