With the death of the Berliner, Jake is the last living werewolf. With the next full moon, he will be hunted and he will be killed.
He’s actually rather looking forward to it. The centuries weigh heavily on him, he has little reason to go on living and even less actual inclination. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who would rather he didn’t go gently into the grave and are determined to keep him alive.
On the first page of this book we have the following quote:
“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. Kubrick’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.”
Which is excellent, I applaud – I mean, really, the publisher might as well have put a sticker on the front page declaring “Warning: Horrendously Overwritten Pretentious Crap Lurks Within!”
But first, let me cover some positives:
I liked several elements of Harley. He was a non-stereotypical gay man – his life was seedy and dark, but this whole book is seedy and dark. He was interesting and he had genuine affection for Jake who, in turn, genuinely cared for him. Does that affection result in Harley being exploited as we see with many gay friends of straight people in fiction? Yes it does – but surprisingly Jake even acknowledges that:
“Harley, a man who’d devoted his life to my protection, who’d loved me, whose love I’d exploited when it suited and stonewalled when it didn’t…”
Does it make a trope ok that it is acknowledged? No, but it helps a lot, especially when the wrongness of it is recognised. Of course, Harley is also repeatedly victimised in this book and, ultimately, his unpleasant fate is some extra grist for Jake’s eternal angst – but until then he’s a good, humanised character with a real connection.
Secondly, I like how every character is humanised – even the prostitutes that Jake sleeps with (because he is punishing himself never to know love but has the absolutely-mandatory-in-fiction werewolf horniness) have large rambling insights to what makes them people, turning them into more than sex objects. Some of the insight truly opens up a character – like Jake’s ex-wife so full of self-assurance and standing above the slut-shaming she experiences to live life the way she wishes, on her terms.
The same applies to his victims – which brings us to another element I like – the world building and the concepts. The werewolves as monsters is always good to revisit, the blurred morality of this book and the question of whose side we should be on is a new twist and I especially love the idea of werewolves consuming lives, living the experiences of their victims in the utmost detail, humanising every one they eat.
This book also does an excellent job of portraying the ennui of a long life. Of how the centuries of existence blur together, how nothing is new, how there is so little of interest left, how everything is just a new version of an old thing. I have never seen a book that expressed so well the sheer, painful wait of centuries of experience.
Right – all of these are good – but all of these are expressed in the most over written, convoluted style I have ever read. Ever. Literally, this is the most impenetrable prose I’ve ever had to try and mine through.