**spoiler alert** Given the somewhat "classic horror" status of this book (for example, it is on the list of "21 Must Read Horror Books" in the Horror**spoiler alert** Given the somewhat "classic horror" status of this book (for example, it is on the list of "21 Must Read Horror Books" in the Horror Writer Association's horror writers' guide), I have to admit I was disappointed, especially since this is also about shapeshifters, one of my favorite subjects. I'm giving it 3 stars instead of 2 because it is quite different than most books of this type that I've read. In my opinion, it is really more of a sci-fi/fantasy novel than horror, and more adventure-oriented than atmosphere-oriented. As such, it is more appreciated as a pure genre work than literary work.
**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD** I will try not to give away too much. I said it is about shapeshifters above because, although it is usually mentioned as one of the best werewolf books, the characters can assume other shapes, they just happen to take wolf shape sometimes. I kind of like this, and found it intriguing that they could even assume the shape of prehistoric animals.
The explanation behind the shapeshifting ability is couched in scientific rather than supernatural terms, which gives an interesting twist, although ultimately it smacks somewhat of racist/eugenic notions that I find troubling (and don't see mentioned much in discussions of the book). This could be written off as more the attitude of the human characters, but both they and the shapeshifters think in black-and-white terms. It's good vs. evil, with the shapeshifters harboring a hatred for humans and vice versa. The narrative tries to set up a conflicted protagonist who tries to sympathize with both sides, but ultimately it doesn't work for me, as he seems to have little control over his own actions; either side is reducible to biological impulses. It could have made for some intense inner drama, but the lack of real self-reflection and choice makes it too simplistic.
Much of the dialogue is dated, sometimes more funny than compelling, always a risk with this kind of novel but a particular problem here. It stuns me how many have said that the book doesn't seem dated--its vaguely racist and sexist attitudes, as well as some of the cliche dialogue and descriptions, hammer its datedness home for me (it was published in 1948). It has a kind of noir-ish feel, though the protagonist is a reporter not a detective. Some of the scientific stuff does seem advanced for its time, I give it that. There is also a blind woman character with a guide dog--not something I find even in fiction today, let alone 1948. She is and isn't a stereotype--she "sees more" despite being blind, something quite common for blind characters, but her bravery and determination make her more rounded.
To return to the protagonist, I felt he was quite weak and easily manipulated, despite...well, you'll have to read it to know what I mean, but you'll probably be able to guess what I mean after not too long into the novel. But I didn't find myself rooting for him much. I admit I was a bit surprised by the ending, especially by the weird postmodern turn it seemed to take when the characters started talking about how readers and critics wouldn't understand or believe the story if it were ever published.
One plus is that the edition I read included black-and-white drawings of certain scenes, some of which were somewhat cartoonish, but they nonetheless made a quirky addition to the text that gave it something like a graphic novel feel (and maybe it would have been more effective as a graphic novel). All in all, I don't think it deserves the hype it gets, but you could do worse if it sounds like your kind of thing. (And if shapeshifters are your thing, you can do much worse.)
Decent read about a teenage female werewolf, who finds herself thrown into the politics of a small werewolf pack, a rogue werewolf killing humans, andDecent read about a teenage female werewolf, who finds herself thrown into the politics of a small werewolf pack, a rogue werewolf killing humans, and antipathy from prejudiced, terrified humans. And wouldn’t you know it, the boy she likes is the son of the scientist. Even though it had a number of flaws, I found myself really enjoying it. I think it was two reasons: 1) all werewolves are female in this world (males apparently cannot survive the condition – this is the opposite of convention, since most werewolf stories focus on men, and stories in which a type of supernatural creature is all one gender, it’s usually male – Jennifer Barnes’ Raised by Wolves; Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls) 2) it focused on a teenage girl – teenage werewolf stories are rare (Michael J. Fox aside), and again, most of them are about boys – the specific problems Claire encounters put a different spin on the lycanthrope condition I also liked the way the author described the ways in which Claire gradually changed and took on more “wolflike” qualities (enhanced senses, greater speed and strength, etc) – this is often either done poorly or too overdone; here it was done well enough to be believable.
The werewolves were more palatable to me as well; more like large versions of real wolves, who seem to retain their human consciousness to a point (although even in their human form, they seem to develop different attitudes and emotional qualities than normal humans; yet, Claire’s feeling of turmoil implies this is perhaps a learned, rather than inherent, difference).
The characters were a bit thin, the dialogue a bit sloppy, and the unique perspectives were not utilized to their potential, but overall I found myself enjoying this book quite a bit. If you are interested in werewolves, or teenage fiction with a supernatural twist, this deserves a read....more
What can I say? There's some pretty sick stuff in here--Village Voice called it "horror pornography." This is probably one of the goriest books I've rWhat can I say? There's some pretty sick stuff in here--Village Voice called it "horror pornography." This is probably one of the goriest books I've read, but better-written than most. Only Poppy Z. Brite has disturbed me more with the combination of sex and violence. Quick read. There's lots of these types of "wild cannibal family" stories in books and movies now, so at first I thought it would only be mediocre despite the cultish popularity of this, but I think the writing was smart and polished enough to give it an extra edge.
According to the Afterword, there have been "expurgated" versions of this, so make sure you get the uncut edition (if you want the full impact of the gore and cruelty of the story)....more