"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright". Anne Rice..Show More »'s "man-wolf" doesn't follow the conventional tenets of lycanthropy--there is no moon, no gypsy, no silver bullets. What Rice has done with her new novel is reinvent not only the lore of the heretofore terrifying beast, but the beast itself, with the same flair she used in the greatest make-over of all time...the evil undead vampire into Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
And, those menly men have nothing over gifted Reuben Golding; he's young, handsome, filthy rich, erudite, with a doctor-mother, lawyer-girlfriend, priest-brother, drives a Porsche,--AND, he is bequeathed a sprawling mansion by the ocean, after he makes love to the mysterious older woman (32?!) he just met that owns the place is attacked and killed by her jealous hooligan brothers--the post-coital glow still about her beautiful face. Reuben of course is spared...OR IS HE???
This time around the creature-angst that had Pitt's Louis eating rats to avoid committing murder, has been replaced with a deep existential pondering about good and evil, the sacred and the profane, Zarathustra's favorite salad dressing...you'd think waking up covered in black fur sprouting claws and fangs would cause more deliberation than if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it...
Years ago, Interview With The Vampire was one of my favorite reads. Rice is a distinguished writer, and Wolf Gift has her trademark rich and evocative settings, the lush prose, and an entertaining story (which seems to be begging for a sequel). Though I have to say, even once you have suspended belief and embraced the man-wolf as a vigilante guard dog, there are some issues: there is no real tension, no suspenseful build-up--even the love scenes seem unenthusiastic (what is with the flannel night gowns--some reference to Little Red's grandma!?). Reuben isn't the only one with an identity dilemma--Man or Wolf? Philosophy or Horror? As it is, this book could be placed in either genre. Too often the wolf story got trampled by Rice's philosophical/theological tutorials that reminded me of college days with Kant, Hume, Descartes, deChardin, when I wanted suspense, chills and frights.
Wolf Gift may not be a hair-raiser, a little editting may have helped this new book be on par with Rice's earlier work, but true Rice fans will devour it and be hoping for The Man-Wolf Chronicles.
Rueben, the Renaissance man, reluctant werewolf, continues his paradoxical struggle with his transformation into the world of the Morphenkinder, aka M..Show More »an Wolves, now surrounded by the gentlemanly old-school wolf pack. He's moved into the bequeathed Nideck mansion, is doing well with his Man Wolf lessons, has a new loup-garou love interest for his animalistic amatory side, but is haunted by the painful memory AND the spectral manifestations of his one-night stand love, the beautiful now ghostly, benefactor Marchent. Marchent is "Earth-bound" and hanging with the Forest Gentry until she works out the glitches in her ascension to the other side.
Did I mention it is the Yuletide season?!! Oh, it is -- for about 14 hours of the 16. The Man Wolves renovate the mansion and surrounding *village,* plan a Midwinter celebration feast for the local population, and string miles of colored lights. (This is the true horror of this book... stuck at Westworld-like Medieval Times and being schooled on all the minutiae of the period: roasted wild boar, mead and mincemeat, antique rag dolls, Battenburg lace, wooden puppets, and mummers...with an infinite loop of Greensleeves playing. Where's a hungry Man Wolf when you need him?) If it takes $1.5 million to maintain Downton Abbey, the Man Wolfs make the Grantham/Crawleys look like paupers; they are gazillionaires with an over-the-top penchant for decoration -- when they aren't taking care of magnanimous depradation or ritualistically frolicking naked among the ancient redwoods.
I 'd like to sit down with the spiritually diverse Ms. Rice...say maybe over a pina colada at Trader Vic's, or a big dish of beef chow mein from Lee Ho Fook's...discuss philosophy, Germanic neopaganism, her conversion from atheism. I'd sit with her for days until she got it all out of her system; I'd do it in memory of Lestat and Louis, and for all the reader/fans that yearn for the Anne Rice from the Vampire Chronicles. With that out of the way, I'd love to talk to her about what she does best -- writing gothic-fantasy-horror, creating epic characters and their complete cosmology based on universal myths and lore, how she layers her books with her knowledge of history and a keen eye for architectural and atmospheric details. Once she understood that I meant her no disrespect, I would start a conversation about the importance of an author distancing her personal obsessions from her work, and the need for professional editing to avoid a bloated theological treatise, over reliant on superfluous imagery that suffocates the plot.
There actually is a good story here, and it does set up some interesting possibilities for the concluding book, but you have to suffer for it. If you barely made it through Wolf Gift, you probably won't make this installment -- unless you are obsessed with Medieval set decorating. If determined but reluctant--skip through the decking the halls. They say horror done poorly becomes comedy...this is borderline, at times causing me mental images of a super-hero Man Wolf, sniffing out evil, and devouring the evil-doers down to "the last knuckle" before dragging himself to confession. I crawled to the finish line with hope that the final book makes the often uneasy reading task, so far, worth it.