After I finished The Last Werewolf, in one long breathless half-guilty romp in my (empty, still-summer) office, I walked down the hall to my English colleague. “Fred,” I said solemnly, “I have just read the best werewolf novel ever written.” He looked at me with an eyebrow raised. “Was it Twilight?” he asked me.
Um, no. It wasn’t Twilight. Glen Duncan’s novel is smart, witty, ferociously sexy, fast-paced, ironic, and melancholy. Like every good horror novel, it’s frightening, and the Wolf is bigger, smarter, and hungrier than the Wer, but (again, like every good horror novel) that’s not what it’s about: it’s about loneliness and despair, and the way it’s possible to make connections where you thought there were none to be made, and extend mercy to yourself so you can live again.
The book is narrated by Jake Marlowe, a 201-year-old werewolf, last of his kind. All the rest have been hunted to extinction by WOCOP, spiritual descendants of Van Helsing, chasing occult phenomena. (Yes, there are vampires in this book. They smell terrible.) Jake, a whiskey-drinking, well-read aesthete, is tired of everything too, the endless logistics of finding a victim each full moon, not being caught by his enemies, staying alive. “I don’t have what it takes,” he tells us. “I still have feelings but I’m sick of having them. Which is another feeling I’m sick of having. . . . I just don’t want any more life.”
But life seeks Jake out. And instead of wanting to be taken by WOCOP and killed at the next full moon, he finds himself with a frantic, urgent reason to survive.
This book was terrific. This book was the bomb. It was funny, and chock-full of cultural references (there’s a moment when Jake quotes the first few sentences of Lolita that is particularly nice, in context.) I didn’t at all expect it to be so good; I kept giggling at it, in pleasure. Were there problems? Yes; the prose got quite purple and over-the-top in places, and the sex is very explicit (which didn’t trouble me but might trouble some.) But the snappy patter keeps coming, and the plot gets ever more James-Bondian (but with werewolves), and the overstuffed feeling gets washed away. As it turns out, this is the first in a trilogy. I feel quite lucky.