Title: The Last Werewolf
Author: Glen Duncan
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but otherwise in the pink of health. The nonstop sex and exercise he’s still getting probably contribute to that, as does his diet: unusual amounts of flesh and blood (at least some from friends and relatives). Jake, of course, is a werewolf, and with the death of his colleague he has now become the only one of his kind. This depresses Jake to the point that he’s been contemplating suicide. Yet there are powerful forces who for very different reasons want — and have the power — to keep Jake alive.
Here is a powerful new version of the werewolf legend — mesmerizing and undeniably sexy, and with moments of violence so elegantly wrought they dazzle rather than repel. But perhaps its most remarkable achievement is to make the reader feel sympathy for a man who can only be described as a monster — and in doing so, remind us what it means to be human.”
Thoughts: In a world where many are looking for some method of living forever or staying young as long as possible, Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf explores the dark side of eternal life. Through Jake Marlowe’s struggles for survival, the reader gets an idea of just how far one is willing to compromise his or her values to achieve such a life. Gritty, stark, blunt, and reverentially existential, this is not a typical werewolf novel and nor is it for teens.
In Duncan’s world, there is nothing remotely sexy or enticing about being a werewolf. Completely animalistic and necessarily cruel, these are the predatory half-man, half-wolf creatures of old. Designed to kill, their whole being revolves around the lunar cycle and the one night per month that the wolf can be unleashed in all its glory and horror. In spite of the gore and emotional trauma of what occurs each full month, what occurs when a werewolf is in human form is even more horrific. Duncan manages to make the human form one of pure torture and agony, surviving as best as possible until the next full moon. It is a rather effective image that does much to remove the romance around werewolves, as established by other paranormal novels.
Told in a journalistic narrative, the reader is taken through the gamut of Jake’s emotions. From his disgust over his own actions performed in the name of survival to his wonder and astonishment at the turns life takes, even after 200 years, the reader is along for the ride. Jake’s apathy oozes from each page, and his philosophical questions about existence and a desire to live make The Last Werewolf a difficult novel. However, the reader cannot help but savor each page, as Jake’s malaise provides much food for thought.
Halfway through the novel, a plot twist occurs that with hindsight is not so surprising but manages to turn Jake’s world upside-down, tumbling the reader into a reading frenzy. The action takes off at breakneck speed, and everything the reader previously knew about Jake changes as well. It is an intriguing turn of events that transforms this thoughtful novel into one of action and suspense. There still remains that thoughts on survival, but they take a backseat to what is actually occurring. The juxtaposition is extremely effective.
In spite of, or because of, the brutal and unapologetically feral aspects of being a werewolf, The Last Werewolf is a surprisingly human story of love and loss, survival and death, and friendship and loneliness. Similarly, Marlowe is extremely sympathetic as the last one of his species, and the reader cannot help but extrapolate what other animals have felt, if anything, as they faced extinction. Fans of the genre or myth will enjoy this very adult and more realistic view of werewolves.