Wednesday 21 February 2018

Review: The last werewolf by Glen Duncan

Cannongate, €17.24, Hardback

The last few years have seen a massive spike in the production of occult literature -- but mostly for children.

Between Harry Potter and the awful Twilight books and movie franchises (how on earth can a character as pathologically dull, whiney and pathetically passive as Bella Swan ever become a teen icon?) children have turned to the dark side.

And particularly to vampires, who get to be all broody and existential and clad in cool black leather jackets, as opposed to the original and more interesting monstrously grotesque appearance of Nosferatu.

But while all the attention has been on vampires, werewolves have, with a few exceptions, been neglected.

Thankfully, a new werewolf novel has just been published and, giving even more cause to rejoice, it is aimed at a grown-up audience.

Jacob Marlowe is more than 200 years old and the last of his species following the murder of a fellow lycanthrope in Europe.

Bored with existence and filled with an ennui that would make any vampire proud, Marlowe knows that WOCOP -- an ancient group dedicated to destroying his kind -- can now focus all its resources on him.

Struggling between the tedium of his human life and the voracious excitement he experiences when the moon is full, Marlowe is smarter than the average bear, well wolf to be more exact, and makes for a hugely engaging narrator.

On vampires he sneers that: "The vampire gets immortality, immense physical strength, physical grandeur and emotional depth. The werewolf gets dyslexia and a permanent erection," while he points out at one point: "Two nights ago I'd eaten a hedge fund specialist. I've been in a phase of taking people nobody wants."

But there's more to Duncan's writing than post-modern smarm. As literary novels go, it zips along at a grand pace and the determination of Marlow's would-be nemesis, Grainger, to avenge his father's death sets up a nicely bleak dynamic.

Duncan is also clever enough to make the reader feel sympathy for this ultimate outsider -- until he reminds you that when he turns he is quite capable of ripping a small child limb from limb.

A fine read.

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