Review of The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Earlier this week I wrote about gushy bloggers and whether we’re not critical enough.  For myself, I’m trying not to just “love” all over a book but really explain what did that for me.

But — I’m just going to say I loved this book.  There.  That’s it.

You’re thinking, one more werewolf book.  Haven’t we seen enough?  Isn’t this a genre that’s way over done, thanks to Twilight?  And what’s the fascination with werewolves anyway?

This is a werewolf story written for grown-ups.  And by that I’m not just talking about sex and violence.  Duncan gives us – in a gripping, non-stop story – a book that will really make you think about why monster fiction appeals to us so much.

Jake Marlowe is the Last Werewolf.  He finds out in the first chapter that the hunter who has made it his mission to eradicate all werewolves has killed the second to last one.  Jake is now alone, and hunted.  He’s to be the ultimate trophy.  Only the hunt has to wait a month, so Jake has one month’s time to think and plan – whether to run or to just give in.  He’s 200 years old and tired of the battle.

Why are we fascinated by monsters?  Is it the idea that we all have multiple sides to our personalities, and some of those sides aren’t so nice?  Is it the idea that we all do horrible things sometimes and sometimes, secretly and shamefully, enjoy them?  This book reminded me a lot of Jekyll and Hyde – it’s not just that we have a civilized side and a dark, uninhibited side.  That nice part of us is inside watching and it really enjoys that bad self.

The other great thing about “monster” stories, is that the good ones usually turn the idea of a monster on its head.  Who’s the monster here, the beast who eats people (well yes) or the hunters to extinguish his whole species?

If none of that rings any bells for you, you’re probably not a horror reader.  I can’t explain exactly why horror appeals to me, especially when I have pretty low tolerance for the sight of blood or any description of torture.  But I’ve been reading Stephen King and fantasy and horror since I was a child – and it draws me.  I think horror explains the human condition, in a way that actually doesn’t keep you up at night because it’s not real, compared to true stories about monsters we really have to live with.  A movie I saw recently comes to mind, The Whistleblower, about sex trafficking.  Let me tell you, I have yet to get that movie out of my head.  Vampires, werewolves, and wizards?  They’re a metaphor.  At least we think they are…

In this book you have a main character who eats live people – no eating rabbits or going vegetarian in Duncan’s world — and yet Jake is one of the most likeable, relatable characters I’ve read in a while.  Maybe it’s his depression and angst.  Maybe it’s his fight to accept who he is, to be good to his friends, and to carve out some enjoyment once in a while in a life that’s so filled with blood and guilt.  Maybe the idea of living and fighting versus giving in appeals to me.

This book won’t be for everyone.  Jake’s narration can be long-winded, although I personally enjoyed it.  You never forget this guy has been around for 200 years.  Is it because people thought in a different way in his time, or just because he’s had an awfully long time to analyze himself and his fellow man?  If his voice was that of a modern narrator it wouldn’t resonate for me.

I sipped, swallowed, glimpsed the peat bog plashing white legs of the kilted clan Macallan as the whisky kindled in my chest.  It’s official.  You’re the last.  I’m sorry.  I’d known what he was going to tell me.  Now that he had, what?  Vague ontological vertigo.  Kubrik’s astronaut with the severed umbilicus spinning away all alone into infinity…  At a certain point one’s imagination refused.  The phrase was: It doesn’t bear thinking about.  Manifestly it didn’t.

For some readers there may be too much gore, or too much sexuality in this book.  I found the book to be so well written, it’s all a vital part of the story.

This is one of the very few books where I almost picked up the sequel the minute I read the last page.  Almost.  But I like to give a good book time to settle in my brain, and this one’s worth it.

  5 comments for “Review of The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

  1. August 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I’m happy to say I own this book and I am now very excited to read it!

  2. August 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    “I think horror explains the human condition, in a way that actually doesn’t keep you up at night because it’s not real, compared to true stories about monsters we really have to live with.” – very nicely put. And now a book I’ll need to keep an eye out for.

  3. Laurie@ What She Read
    August 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book too, at least as much for all the literary and philosophical allusions so cleverly woven into the protagonist’s inner monologue as for the thought provoking storyline. Glad we agree on this first novel of the trilogy. Here’s hoping that Tallulah Rising will be equally as interesting.

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