Wow. This is the werewolf novel I've been waiting for. Glen Duncan, where have you been all my life? Well, I would love to read a great literate werewoWow. This is the werewolf novel I've been waiting for. Glen Duncan, where have you been all my life? Well, I would love to read a great literate werewolf novel that is still exciting and gory with a protagonist from a working class background, rather than middle class (seems the norm) or wealthy background (as in this novel and a few others). Other than that, this is nearly a perfect werewolf book. I first heard about this from a glowing review in the New York Times Book Review (and how many horror novels make it into THAT?). It's got well-developed, intelligent characters. It's got violence, gore, and a fast-pace plot that keeps you guessing. The writing (most of it first person, from the protagonist's journals) is high-quality with literary allusions aplenty, smart description, and an original tone that seems to avoid most cliches.
Jacob Marlowe (that name alone calls up so much rich literary history! Doctor Faustus and A Christmas Carol, anyone?) is informed on page one that he is the last werewolf. All the others have been hunted by a secret global society (WOCOP) that tracks and hunts down supernatural nasties. In an odd twist, werewolves are not presented as pack animals--as one would think, wolves being pack animals, with many novels portraying werewolves as having the same inclination). They are too competitive and ill-tempered for that, unlike the vampires, who band together and have made "deals" with WOCOP for mutual interest and protection. I happen to like the portrayal of vampires here--ruthless, greedy, and asexual (they literally can't have sex--I've always thought the sexual exploits of vampires were odd in stories where their other bodily functions, such as breathing and heartbeat, don't work--how could they orgasm, or get erections?). They figure into the story, as they have a certain interest in Jake--as do factions fracturing in WOCOP.
Jake is an intriguing protagonist in that he embraces his werewolf side, and doesn't make apologies for being a monster, for killing and eating people (a hunger all werewolves must answer or risk insanity), yet he is unquestionably likable. He claims not to have real morals, but he's also not cruel or nihilistic--and he does and says things that show that he does care about others. He has a cynical, world-weary tone and yet he quotes literature, shows respect and compassion to people in circumstances you would least expect someone to, and has a certain interest and investment in life that he can't quite kill. He often repeats phrases he's read or heard others speak, something that adds particular emotion punch (and also adds to the realism--I don't know about you, but I do the same thing)--it also shows, despite his claims to the contrary, that things still affect him.
There are a few red herrings here and there, but I wasn't annoyed by them. It's all part of keeping the reader guessing--a damn hard thing to do nowadays. I think it also adds to the realism of the narrative, with it being told in first person by someone who doesn't have all the facts. The ending, though unexpected, leaves it open for a sequel (which I am eagerly hoping will appear).
In short, I can't recommend this novel enough, even to those who aren't into horror. (My girlfriend, not really a horror fan, read it in a single night in a feverish passion.)
There is also a companion album of the same name by a British band called The Real Tuesday Weld that reminds me of Tom Waits with more of a swing/jazz style thrown in, with a bit of electronic goth for good measure. I also highly recommend that as a listen....more
**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
Looking for books with female teenage werewolves as protagonists I came across this book and, though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, gave itLooking for books with female teenage werewolves as protagonists I came across this book and, though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, gave it a try. It’s not an awful book, but there’s a lot that kept me from really getting into it. It’s about a teenage girl, rescued from a rogue werewolf at the age of four, raised by a werewolf pack since.
I wasn’t too into the depiction of the werewolves. Their pack hierarchy is extremely rigid, with a codified set of laws/traditions, that can result in violence and death if broken. It sounded more like living in the military than a group of people who turned into animals. This misrepresentation often happens in books that try to draw on the pack hierarchy of real wolves for their depiction of werewolves – I’m thinking of the Laurell K. Hamilton & Kim Harrison books here – but this is an extreme example. It’s obvious that these authors either don’t know much about the way real wolf packs work (but then who really does?), or they choose to ignore the actual research that’s out there and stick with the stereotype of the rigid idea of domination and violence in animal packs. –End rant—Anyway, it didn’t make the werewolves very likable.
The characters are fairly shallow and not that well developed. They’re more like types than people. I didn’t care much for the protagonist, who was a bit of a sassy brat (another common trope of female protagonists in supernatural fiction – sigh – it gets old). Most of the werewolves are men—for some reason, females rarely survive birth. And they act very…well, masculine. Aggressive. Except for the gay werewolf friend, who sings showtunes and talks about fashion. Again…stereotype?
There was one interesting spin on all this, which I can’t give away in case you want to read, but let’s just say that some of the characters have powers other than shapeshifting. This adds an interesting dimension.
The villain was pretty thinly developed, and the ending kind of predictable, but I was interested to see how the finer details would all play out. It’s not the worst werewolf book out there, but I would only recommend this to a hardcore werewolf enthusiast. Which I am. And if there is a sequel, I may be interested enough to see if it can build upon some of the glimmers of ideas here. ...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
I read this book because the Horror Book Discussion Group I was going to read it (though I didn't attend the discussion). So that's why I read this evI read this book because the Horror Book Discussion Group I was going to read it (though I didn't attend the discussion). So that's why I read this even though it's the 3rd book in a series, and I haven't read the first two. However, you don't really need to have read those first two to enjoy this. In fact, from what I've read about the author, unlike others who write these urban paranormal/horror/fantasy action/romance series (like Kim Harrison, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and Laurell K. Hamilton), Briggs prides herself on writing novels that can stand alone, without characters or situations being thrown in your face that are only understandable from reading previous books, or cliffhanger endings.
The main character, Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson, is in some ways formulaic, in some ways unique. She bears many of the qualities of heroines in similar books, such as those by the aforementioned authors: - physically petite, not that powerful in and of herself either physically or magically. She is surrounded by other, more powerful creatures both male and female - werewolves, vampires, and fae. But she does have the unique advantage of being one of the only, if not the only, "walker" left - she can change to coyote shape. While not as powerful as werewolves, this comes with several advantages, including being able to see ghosts. - stubborn and rebellious, intentionally provoking anger - she ticks off those more powerful than her for kicks, even finding the anger she arouses in the alpha werewolf sexually arousing - courageous in the face of danger (sometimes almost to the point of being foolhardy), loyal to her friends and loved ones (to the point of endangering herself) - in this book, her former boss and friend, Zee (a fae), is accused of a murder he didn't commit; the humans believe he's guilty, and his own people want him as a scapegoat so their secrets don't get revealed by a more in-depth investigation. This puts her in the crosshairs of the fae, the police, and the real killer. And some pretty messed up things happen to her because of this. - she also has the distinguishing physical characteristic of being part white, part Native American, so she is darker skinned, slightly Asian looking, with long black hair. (Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake is Mexican-American; Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan has bright red hair and covered with freckles.) It is interesting that Mercy comments on how she sees herself as unpretty, that the mix of racial features doesn't look "quite right" on her, even as she admires other biracial characters (such as Jamil, an African-American/Chinese werewolf). - she is tough - a mechanic, covered with tattoos, yet can "act" submissive when necessary (a requirement when dealing with the hierarchial werewolves and fae).
Overall, this book is not much of a departure from others like it. Though this series seems to focus more on werewolves than vampires (like the Hamilton and Harrison novels), and the fae are quite more powerful and terrifying than in most modern works (more like their original guises in myth and legend). Also, this installment at least seemed to focus less on sex and violence, and more on storytelling and character development.
This is also one of the few horror novels I have read in which a main character is raped. (The only other I can think of is Poppy Z. Brite's "Lost Souls.") While it is not graphic, if that's something that would put you off, you might want to steer clear or at least jump ahead a few pages (you can pretty much tell when it is leading up to that scene)....more
I'm not sure whether this deserves 4 stars or 3, but it definitely merits at least one second reading. This review may change as I think about this boI'm not sure whether this deserves 4 stars or 3, but it definitely merits at least one second reading. This review may change as I think about this book more (and maybe figure things out about it more).
Just a little background on the author: Egolf was born in Spain, his family moved to the U.S., he lived in Washington and Kentucky as a child, then in Philadelphia, Paris (where he claimed was the best place to write about Kentucky), and Lancaster, PA as an adult. In addition to writing, he played in a punk rock band, and was a political activist, supposedly joining several others in laying on a road traveled by George W. Bush in 2004, stripped down to nothing but a thong.
In 2005, after completing Kornwolf, Egolf killed himself with a shotgun. He had been living in Lancaster at the time, where much of the book is set. This indicates that Egolf likely suffered from severe mental problems, which seems even more likely from reading this book.
Based on descriptions and reviews, his other works sound just as warped. Not only is the content of Kornwolf disturbing, the writing style and structure are somewhat strange as well - not necessarily in a postmodern, self-conscious, well-crafted way. The unfolding of the narrative is jarring, if not disjointed. Divided into five parts, the first, called "Introductions," is very simply that - chapters of character introductions, without any seeming connection, although those do come in later. But the characters, odd themselves, seem very disparate from each other, so it's hard to see how they can be part of a unified story. We have:
- "The Blue Ball Devil," a mysterious creature said to haunt the town of Stepford (a small town in Amish country, based for the most part on Lancaster) - no one seems to know what it is or even be able to accurately describe it, other than having a vaguely canine and/or apelike appearance, and an uncanny resemblance to Richard Nixon - Ephraim Bontrager, a mute and tortured Amish 18-year old who causes mischief and listens to Slayer and George Jones - Benedictus Bontrager, Ephraim's father, a self-serving and cruel man who seems to paradoxically embody Old Order Amish values as well as secular materialistic greed - Owen Brymmor, a vagabond reporter/wannabe boxer who (grudgingly) returns to his hometown, seemingly simulatenously blessed with luck and a constant draw to danger - Jack Stumpf, gruff boxing coach somehow involved with the Blue Ball Devil - Fannie Hostler - Ephraim's cousin, one of the more innocent characters, an Amish girl who tries to live out her order's values while not being afraid to defy them for the sake of compassion
There are other characters as well, but you get the idea.
Gradually, these characters - a mix of Amish, ex-Amish, and eccentric non-Amish ("English" as opposed to "Pennsyltucky Dutch") - come together in a complicated, bizarre culmination of events that involve the mysterious Blue Ball Devil and mass hysteria.
We never really find out what the Blue Ball Devil is – a werewolf? a Devil-possessed shapeshifter? some kind of genetic mutant? - though Egolf does, via Brymmor's investigations, go into theorizing about various cryptozoological creatures and werewolf myths. It seems to be something straight out of Medeival folklore, purely malicious and beyond human reason. The town takes on Medeival witch-hunt lunacy as well. Just as much horror comes from the very human inhabitants of Stepford as the Blue Ball Devil – vandalism, arson, assault, and murder. The cycles of the moon play into this, affecting them as much as the creature.
Enough information is pieced together to give the story coherence, yet not enough to give full understanding of everything that happens. I’m not sure whether this is intentional – which seems unlikely, given the intricate explications Egolf goes into – or whether this is a consequence of Egolf having killed himself shortly after finishing the book, and thus not being able to revise it – which doesn’t necessarily explain it either, as he clearly wanted things to be bizarre and mysterious. It’s probably a mix of both intentional and unintentional ambiguity.
Most of the time, the writing is fairly straightforward. The only exceptions are a few stream-of-consciousness passages. However, there is also often an edge to the writing. He jumps from character to character, in a series of third-person limited vignettes, and yet Egolf seems to be able to maintain a distinct voice when focusing on each character. The wording and sentence structure reflects the character’s personality to a degree. Brymmor’s is intellectual and sarcastic, for example, while Stumpf’s is terse and tough, and Ephraim’s is confused and angry. This indicates Egolf’s talent, a potential perhaps not fully realized, at least for this novel.
The ending does not really resolve much. It seems to be left open for a sequel. Yet, whatever follows the events depicted here would probably be anticlimactic. A litany of injured and murdered characters – shot, run over, decapitated, mauled to death. In one scene, one unfortunate man ends up suspended from a roof, flogged, beaten with a sack of potatoes, and a candle shoved in his rectum. A 13-car pileup, a riot of scared, angry townspeople setting the fields on fire to flush out the monster….An indication of redemption, if extremely painful and not fully guaranteed….
I had difficulty getting into this at first, even considered putting it down after the first 50 pages seemed to lack any sense of cohesion or compelling reason to go on. Yet, the glimpses of strangeness I got – murky pictures of the Blue Ball Devil, this Amish teenager who listens to heavy metal – made me push myself to investigate further. If it hadn’t picked up, I may have abandoned it, but soon I became enthralled by its tangled, abnormally beautiful tapestry. Also, I was interested in reading a book set in rural Pennsylvania, especially one involving the Amish. (Egolf thinly veils his satire of Pennsylvania, which he calls “Pennsyltucky” – Philadelphia is Philth Town, Pittsburgh is Pittburg, Harrisburg is Horaceburg, etc. Many of the characters behave as luckless hillbillies – some of the characters, though white themselves, call them “honkies.” The Amish are not caricatured into being either pure, isolated holy people, or fanatical bumpkin hypocrites – they are depicted with as much variation of good and bad as the non-Amish.) This was what made me pick this up in the first place, from seeing it on a library display and reading the back cover. This is one of the few books I had I read and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the author or book, and no recommendations by others.
This deserves a second reading, though I think there’s a 50-50 chance I’ll either like it more or less....more
Eighth book featuring Agent Pendergast, taking place after the thrid book in the "Diogenes trilogy," The Book of the Dead. Constance is with him, recoEighth book featuring Agent Pendergast, taking place after the thrid book in the "Diogenes trilogy," The Book of the Dead. Constance is with him, recovering from her encounter with Pendergast's brother. They travel to a remote Buddhist monastery in Tibet, where Pendergast learned techniques of discipline and meditation. When the abbot requests Pendergast to investigate the theft of an ancient artifact called The Wheel of Darkness, thought to hold the power to wipe out humanity, he and Constance are caught up in mysterious murders, upperclass snobbery, and spiritual horror.
This is a decent book if you are into bizarre but realistic thrillers - although this book features more supernatural leanings than previous books, and leaves some things unexplained (whereas in previous books there was often a scientific/mundane, if unusual, explanation).
Preston and Child have a knack for carrying on action, chapters often ending in cliffhangers, while providing erudite exposition. Their vocabulary and knowledge of culture, such as painters famous and obscure, upper-class fashion and mannerisms, and obscure Buddhist practices helps to give the plot-driven narrative some substance.
However, as realistic and knowledgable as the writing is, sometimes it does push the limits of believability, such as Constance getting easily admitted to a monastery that had banned women for a millenia, and some of the actions of the ocean liner. The characters are also sometimes formulaic and seem like staples of the series: a beautiful but hard-nosed woman in an unprecedented or unusual position of authority; a bratty, malicious rich guy who dabbles in the esoteric and gets his come-uppance; a down-on-his-luck but well-intentioned guy who gets to be heroic. And of course, despite their eccentricities, Constance and Pendergast themselves do not necessarily have a lot of depth - although it was nice to see Pendergast, usually superior in every way - temporarily affected by the destructive effects of the Wheel of Darkness.
In short: a good addition to the series, but not a good starting point.
Although I appreciate the attempt at what I suppose the author intends to be a "literary horror" novel, the few interesting passages did not make up fAlthough I appreciate the attempt at what I suppose the author intends to be a "literary horror" novel, the few interesting passages did not make up for the lack of engagement for this reader. Lacking in character and plot, the uneven style feels more like a fiction workshop experiment than something an author would want to publish. Told from a third-person limited point of view, I did not care anything for the main protagonist. Nor did I understand much of the action and meaning behind the more surrealist passages. Just not for me, I guess....more
Fifth Pendergast book, first in the "Diogenes trilogy," although Pendergast's diabolical brother hardly appears in this at all, so I don't understandFifth Pendergast book, first in the "Diogenes trilogy," although Pendergast's diabolical brother hardly appears in this at all, so I don't understand why it is lumped with the next 2 books. Anyway, it is pretty typical of the Pendergast series - fast-paced action, mysterious crimes, a blend of science and the spiritual.
I like the complexity of the mystery and Pendergast's eccentricities, which remind me of Poe's detective stories. However, some of the narrative seems unnecessary, such as the sections that follow the reporter and the preacher. While interesting, they drag the pace.
The characters are too often formulaic - e.g., the police captain, a beautiful woman (she isn't just smart and in a good career, she has good looks, too, as the authors are important to note) in an unprecedented position of authority (see also the ocean liner captain in "Wheel of Darkness"); the down-on-his-luck guy turned hero (Vinnie D'Agosta, who somehow turns from overweight loser to sexy and skilled hero within a matter of days).
While the characters and events stretch credibility, and the authors' expositions on upper-class culture (painting and opera in this book) can be grating, it is a fun read. The more I think about Pendergast's abilities, though, the more his success seems just as much due to luck than his own skill. This book does end unusually, with Pendergast seemingly killed off (though of course by now we know that he came through alive).
This is another entry showing that while the Pendergast novels aren't masterpieces, they are fun and mysterious....more