Book review: Glen Duncan’s THE LAST WEREWOLF

Okay. Well. This book… totally happened.

As has been covered, I really dig abrasively written unnecessarily tragic love stories (WRACK, LOLITA, etc.; CALEB’S CROSSING could have been sexier). This one had all of those things in spades.

The story is about Jacob Marlowe, who is – as you might imagine – the last werewolf on Earth. It’s set in the future, sometime in the 2040s, and while the monsters and beasties aren’t common knowledge, they’re common enough to be hunted by super-governmental (I mean that in the actual-est form of “super”; that is to say, above, outside of, not subservient to) private contractors; they’re compared to private military companies, particularly Blackwater, as that’s the one we know about.

[Another thing, briefly: this is the style in which it is written. There are rambling parentheticals, excesses of italics (for true stylistic purposes, and only rarely for dialogue emphases), dashes and semi-colons and words that make you frown because you’re pretty sure Duncan made them up but their rightness astounds.]

Do not get me wrong: this book is soul-crushingly depressing. A great deal of the first book (called First Moon: Let It Come Down) is wallowing ennui on the part of the werewolf, who has begun to write in his journals again now that he knows he is alone in the world. “Wallowing ennui” it is, dear reader, but that is not a bad thing in this case. It isn’t an angsty, masturbatory bout of pretention (well, maybe a little), but a seemingly earnest discussion of what does he have to live for? The pace sags a bit towards the end of the first book, but by the time you get to Second Moon: fuckkilleat, the tension has ramped back up, the stakes are drawn – pardon, redrawn – and the frenetic pace keeps up for the rest of the book.

The tragedy – which you see coming, you watch it hurtling towards you with a slow, unmistakeable certainty with no ability to avert its path – is constant and constantly reinforced. A great deal of the pages are read sort of with only one eye on the page, the whole body halfway to wincing already, one preparing oneself for the (next) onslaught of ohJesuswhatnow? And in the true style of urban horror master Nancy A. Collins, Glen Duncan has crafted a protagonist with whom we can share a deep sympathy while simultaneously being revolted by the acts that the protagonist must commit – often, always takes joy in committing – which are described, often, in detail that is not appropriate for all ages.

Frankly, the best thing about this book was its joy. Ridiculous, right? Let me clarify: there is, in fact, nothing joyful about this book – not really – but there is a splendid, carefree, hair-flying freedom about the prose itself that the reader cannot help but pick up on. Yes, perhaps freedom was what I meant – the word choice, the sentence structure, the absolute zero on the give-a-damn meter for “standard” anything – it comes across as almost joyful. It’s liberating, as a writer, to see that sort of thing being accepted, and published, and successful. It’s nice to be reminded, every once in a while, that not everything has a formula, that not everything is being done in accordance to The Big House Standards, and that someone still found it, still read it, still said, YES, let’s do this. And let’s do it in hardcover.

4/5 stars. Contains some scenes of graphic violence and sex. (If you’re not a fan of the “c-word,” you probably ought to skip this one. Or, alternately, you can shut up and read it anyway.) Recommended for fans of Nancy A. Collins (Sonja Blue), Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim), and Stephen King’s darker/est stuff. Visit the author’s page via Simon & Schuster.

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