Friday, October 26, 2012

The Wolf Gift

The Wolf Gift
Anne Rice

We're fast approaching that time when terrifying, addled things come lurching and staggering out of dark holes to take over the streets. No, I'm not talking about the bars emptying at 1:00 a.m. on a typical evening in downtown Guelph--I'm talking Halloween! In honour of the holiday, we're featuring dual reviews of Anne Rice's latest blockbuster, The Wolf Gift, by two writers who have never read Rice before. Enjoy!

- Bruce

Robert Green: A New and Clever Take on Werewolf Mythology

As a newcomer to well-known author Anne Rice, I was unsure of what to expect from her work, and I think this worked to my favour. To my delight, I discovered a beautifully-woven world tied together with detailed, four-dimensional characters, a strong plot, and a new and clever take on werewolf mythology.

Rice's new novel, The Wolf Gift, is a bold and different take on the werewolf, a creature who has begun to resurface in popular culture. It tells the story of Reuben, an unsuspecting journalist given “the gift” in the form of a werewolf bite while exploring a house in an old, deep forest. The book follows Reuben as he attempts to cope with the change, chronicling how his interactions with friends and family change and how he struggles to control the beast inside him.

There is nothing in this book that is unlikeable. The language of the text is so lyrical and poetic that it seems to create the world before your eyes, and the characters seem more like people you know than constructions made of printed words. Most books struggle to achieve this with just the main character, and for Rice to extend it to all her creations is a stroke that is nothing short of masterful.

My only complaint is that the ending seemed a little rushed, but the buildup toward it was engaging and entertaining. If you have read Anne Rice before, you will most certainly enjoy this book. For all newcomers, this is the place to start.

Nikki Everts-Hammond: Mere-Mortals versus Were-Mortals

Who knew? Werewolves are people too and feel oh-so-conflicted about their irresistible urges to tear apart and devour living beings. Of course, they limit their human dining to evil people—the truly wicked person has an enticing odour which the innocents of this world lack. Or so claim the werewolves, or “Morphenkinder,” in Anne Rice’s newest novel, The Wolf Gift.

This is my first read by the famed diva of horror so I have no idea whether this is typical fare or not. I’d never be able to read her much-acclaimed Interview with a Vampire because vampires scare me silly and at my age I have to be careful of my health. I rather like wolves—they are furry and beautiful—and so Wolf Gift seemed a good first Rice novel to sink my teeth into.

Horror is not a genre I like, but I do understand the appeal. From the horror comics I devoured as a callous and morbid youth, I recognize that this genre offers many opportunities to moralize about bad behaviour; the ghouls will get you even if the more mundane agents of justice fail to punish you for your murdering, abusive, vile ways. The more sophisticated classics, Frankenstein for example, also explore headier concepts: What does it mean to be human? What is good or evil? Do monsters have souls? How does society treat the marginalized? Is there a God or a Devil? Who is responsible when scientific experiments go awry and cause collateral damage? How far can you mess with nature before something really bad happens?

The Wolf Gift—the story of, you guessed it, a young man inadvertently bitten by a werewolf and therefore transformed into one—covers the morality theme in graphic gory detail and does touch on the headier issues, but without conviction or energy. While the storyline is predictable, Rice kept me interested with her disturbingly vivid descriptions of the werewolf’s experience of transformation (ecstatic), and how it felt to be so big and powerful (transcendental) and highly sexed (well, you can just imagine that for yourselves). Yes, there is a love interest. And I would not be at all surprised if there were a few sequels lining up behind this one, since it ends with at least one unanswered question.

I’d like Rice’s werewolves much better if in their human form they were not so clearly superior to everybody else—wealthy, charming, generous, warm, cultured. It doesn’t help that their attitude towards the rest of us “mere-” rather than “were-” mortals is one of “noblesse oblige.” Ricean werewolves never have to worry about money, or relationships, or losing their jobs or their hair. Maybe I am just jealous, but these werewolves just didn’t suffer enough to make me really care about what happened to them.

Still, Anne Rice fans will drool over Wolf Gift, much as the werewolves drool over the bodies of their evil victims. As well, those who are curious about werewolves and how it feels to be one will find this an enlightening read.

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