Emily's Reviews > The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
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Jul 28, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: set-aside

There's a great scene in HIBAFN* where the protagonist's friend, an editorial assistant, pours vodka in her milkshake and blurts out that she can't tell the difference between good and bad books anymore. This really does happen, and The Last Werewolf is the proof. I think it's powerfully awful, yet the folks at Alfred A. Knopf clearly disagree, since they're publishing it with great fanfare. Don't be fooled by the enthusiastic NYT review, which was written by the author of last summer's leaden The Passage. I read 70 pages of this--more than the regulation number required in my publishing days--before giving up.

The problems I see are as follows:

- Bad writing. There are some good turns of phrase here, each outweighed by about four infelicities. To give one early example: "My bladder tingled as in the too fast pitch down from a Ferris wheel's summit." How fast do Ferris wheels move? Every one I've ever been on moved painfully slowly and had no effect on the viscera. But I'm not sure we're meant to picture this, rather, we should appreciate its picturesqueness and move on quickly.

- Lack of atmosphere. The author tries mightily to set a tone, but the narrator's wall of words prevented me from really entering any scene. What style there is seems poseurish and artificial, like a goth teenager postponing laundry day. Scotch and fancy hotels, I get it.

- Speaking of the protagonist's bladder, there is a lot of frank sex-and-entrails talk in this book. Don't expect to read it over lunch. And the sex scenes aren't much sexier than the entrail-snarfing ones. Maybe this would float someone else's boat, but if I'm going to read a book that I'm embarrassed for people to see over my shoulder on the subway, I'd like it to be actually hot.

- Dullness. After 70 pages, I really wasn't interested in the protagonist or his human protector (whose homosexuality provokes a tattoo of inane comments). In this attempt to create a literary work on the supernatural, the author (much like Justin Cronin) seems to have forgotten that the reason people read books on the supernatural is not because they like bad writing, but because they like engaging plots and characters. Neither this book nor The Passage succeeds in creating a literary work without throwing the good parts of tawdry paranormal fiction away with the bad.

I'm sure there will be plenty of readers who like this book, but I can't help but wonder if they're admiring its pretensions more than they're really enjoying it.



* Which is apparently my favorite book, since I'm unable to write about other books without referring to it.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Leah (new)

Leah Ouch! Trenchant, but accurate. I'm enjoying the novel more than you did (in a breezy, primarily intellectual way--no emotional engagement), but your remarks are spot-on.


message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Whats_Her_Face Totally agree. I am still trudging my way through it, but I'm still not sure why. I could care less about any of the characters. The writing is either beyond my comprehension, or was written by a 5th grader from South London. I find it hard to follow the thoughts of "Jake", nor do I really care what he's thinking. I will finish it, no matter how painful it is.


message 3: by Elinor (new)

Elinor Thank you. Agree w/all above and more. I now have permission to put the book down, go to the group w/ my batch of blood red cup cakes and explain why I don't appreciate purple prose from the boy's locker room.


Jenny Draxler I agree with you. Even though I have to read this for my English class, I just can't wait til we're done discussing this book. It's just that horrible.


Emily Wow, you had to read this for school? Sounds like an awkward discussion!


message 6: by Elinor (new)

Elinor I can't believe anyone is still reading this book. We surmised it was written to skip the reader and go directly to a Hollywood script factory. Any teacher who assigned this book is either very clever (so you could point out all "what not to do" or caught up in awkward boy coming-of-age drama.
Author had to have connections in the publishing industry.


message 7: by John (new) - added it

John I didn't make it to 70. Made it to around 60 and put it down. Your review sums up my problems with this book. Maybe it gets better, but I would rather invest the time in a book I enjoy from start to finish.


Marc Braun I wish I could have written this review. Well said!


Lupe Dominguez I wrote a 5 star on this, I think, more so with the idea that I was excited to see what the series would be like now in a female point of view. I do have to say though that there were my times I wanted to put it down and just be done with it. I do hope the next one isn't like that.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Marie I just made it to page 69 before setting it down for good. I gave it a good try but for everything you said, will not be continuing. I don't remember the last time I started a book and stopped reading before it was finished.


Sarah Untrue review.


Sarah Untrue review.


Dylstra Yeah, I'd say this is a fair review. For about the first half I would have happily given up on this one. Most of the high concept stuff is interesting but, as noted, the writing is quite poor. There's a whole bunch of sentences that mean nothing among the overall clunkiness. However, I did stick with it to the end and the pace did pick up a bit. I'm not sure how deliberate that was but the narrator did make a point of saying that he had been living abstractly but now he was living specifically. I took that to be a self-theorising moment intended to make explicit the change in style.


kashiichan I completely agree with this review. Finishing the book was an exercise in self-control and I wasn't even rewarded by a decent ending.


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