Review by New York Times Review
A man boards an early-morning flight from San Francisco to Portland, Ore. Although dressed for business, in a charcoal suit and wingtips, he carries nothing in his briefcase "except some pens and a day-old newspaper." Visibly nervous and sweating profusely, he deflects his seatmate's attempts at small talk. Once the plane is airborne, he excuses himself to the restroom from which, moments later, comes a "drawn-out guttural rumbling." The door flies open; he has transformed into a werewolf. He proceeds to tear apart the passengers, all but one. Elsewhere in the skies above America, the same thing is happening aboard two other aircraft. Of the three, two manage to land; the third crashes outside Denver, "a fiery smear in a wheat field." Sound familiar? Thus begins Benjamin Percy's "Red Moon," the world's first 9/11 werewolf book. Percy, the author of two well-regarded story collections and a previous novel, makes an interesting bet. Has enough time passed that the horrors of that day can become the stuff of, well, a horror novel? In the world Percy has conceived, werewolves (or "lycans," as they are called) have been around since the seventh century. Their condition is caused by a prion known as lobos - a viruslike, blood-borne contagion that stimulates the amygdala and hypothalamus in moments of stress. (Think of the Incredible Hulk.) Feared, misunderstood and often persecuted, many have settled in the Lupine Republic, a discouraging patch of permafrost in northern Scandinavia, currently under American military occupation to safeguard its valuable uranium resources. At home, roughly 1 in 20 Americans carries the infection. A majority go peaceably about their lives of mandated medication - a mind-dulling silver-infused concoction wittily named Volpexx - and curtailed civil liberties. A radical minority do not. Percy's multistranded plot resists encapsulation. The backbone of his lengthy tale is a star-crossed love affair between two teenagers: Patrick, the lone survivor of the air attacks, and Claire, a lycan whose murdered parents, unbeknown to her, were central figures in a 1960s iteration of the lycan liberation movement. As the violence escalates, the two intersect when Patrick rescues Claire from a random highway assault. Patrick's brief flirtation with an anti-lycan militia group ends when he discovers the object of his affection bounding through the forest in full hirsute regalia. Their Montague-Capulet issues notwithstanding - and, in part, because of them - they form a bond that thrusts them into the middle of the showdown between humans and werewolves. Percy has a lusty flair for describing destruction. Among the novel's most successful, and unnerving, set pieces is the car bombing of Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. In its bloody aftermath, Claire and Patrick are sent tumbling in different directions. Patrick, whose Army reservist father has gone missing in the Lupine Republic, enlists with the hope of finding him. Claire takes shelter under an assumed name at William Archer, a lycan-only college, where she meets the frumpy, pipe-smoking Prof. Alan Reprobus, a former '60s radical with ties to the insurgency. (Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Percy's reimagined America, apart from the werewolves, is that people can still smoke in their offices.) Claire and Patrick, now on opposite sides of the conflict, exchange cagey e-mails, but there can be no doubt Percy will bring them together again. The country, meanwhile, has descended into chaos. Lycans are barred from air travel, leaving many stranded; under the terms of the Patriot Act (yes, that), most of their remaining civil rights are rescinded. Friends and neighbors turn on one another as Congress dithers fecklessly. A smuggled video message from a prominent resistance leader on death row inflames passions on both sides. ("You cannot roll over. You cannot obey. You cannot play the bad dog they want you to play. . . . Bite back.") Yet the lycans are not without their human supporters. College campuses and town squares roil with protest; in Central Park, police officers in riot gear use pepper spray to disperse the residents of a tent city inhabited "by lycans and nonlycans alike, many of them 20-somethings with ratty beards and wool caps and army surplus backpacks." Percy is clearly enjoying himself. When Claire and Patrick take the field, the book lights up, and the writing possesses a resonant, emotional honesty. But they're not the only story here, and other figures feel more like dutiful attempts to enlarge the scope, including a politician whose presidential ambitions go awry when he's infected with lobos by a prostitute, and a freelancing government operative known only as the Tall Man. (The name seems to acknowledge he is less a character than a characterlike object.) A fourth plotline, about a researcher working on a lobos vaccine, gets so little airtime that its importance is easily overlooked amid the mayhem. It's a bit of a tangle Percy makes for himself. Although he works gamely to weave everything together, the results, particularly in the novel's turbulent second half, are visibly effortful. Following a nuclear meltdown that renders most of the Pacific Northwest uninhabitable, narrative logic goes out the window. I found myself scratching my head at any number of assertions. Why would the insurgency poison a vast region of the country, then turn around and claim it as a lycan homeland, inviting all of their kind to settle there? Why would the Tall Man and his government handlers employ an amateur militia of acne-faced teenagers to take out the lycan leadership, when they have the full might of the United States military at their disposal? Why have the lycans chosen as their headquarters a large public building with a huge aerial footprint, and why is this building virtually undefended? And what's with the Mexicans? (Never mind.) As Percy struggles to find the exit, he parachutes a phalanx of new characters into the story at the last minute, and the coincidences pile up disconcertingly; his tale begins to feel like one of those episodes of "Star Trek" in which an alien planet functions like a small town. But the novel's thematic project really takes center stage. Percy recasts virtually every social-justice struggle over the last half-century in lycanthropic terms, from desegregation to the desire of peace-loving American Muslims to go about their business without being treated like pariahs. On the surface, it's a clever conceit, but allegory doesn't let you pick your meanings à la carte. The novel may assure us that lycan assaults are "as uncommon as shark attacks," but only because the potential perpetrators are medically benumbed. Without the "choke chain" of Volpexx, they'd pretty much want to rip their human neighbors to shreds. Substitute "AIDS patients" or "the Occupy movement" for "lycans," and the problem becomes uncomfortably apparent. As a paranormal thriller, Percy's novel engages, despite the occasionally visible wires. The story is imaginative and lots of fun, and it will deservedly charm many readers. As alternative history, the book finds more troubled footing. Lobos "is not a disease," one lycan resistance fighter assures us. "It is an identity and way of life." Maybe so, but that's cold comfort when you're lunch. Justin Cronin is the author of "The Passage" and "The Twelve."
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 2, 2013]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Doing for werewolves what Justin Cronin's The Passage (2010) did for vampires, this literary horror novel is set in an alternate version of the present day. Everything is pretty much the same, except for one teensy difference: werewolves or lycans, as Percy calls them aren't the stuff of mythology. They're real, and they've existed for centuries: ordinary men and women afflicted with an unusual (and seemingly incurable) disease, lobos, which turns them into another sort of life-form altogether. Lycans and humans have established an uneasy peace, but, as the book opens, lycan terrorists seem determined to spark a bloody war. Percy focuses on a trio of engaging and beautifully drawn characters: Patrick, a boy who survives one of the terrorist attacks; Claire, a girl whose family is murdered for reasons she doesn't clearly understand; and Chase, a governor whose aggressively anti-lycan views are challenged in a tragically ironic way. Parallels to the U.S. in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are clear and deliberate, but it's the way the author, following in the footsteps of such writers as Glen Duncan (in The Last Werewolf, 2011), humanizes the werewolf, turning him from snarling beast into a creature for whom we feel compassion and affection, that makes the book such a splendid read. Although the novel tells a self-contained story, there is plenty of room for a sequel, which would be most welcome.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Reviewed by Stefan Dziemianowicz. Benjamin Percy's extraordinary new supernatural thriller is a blend of alternate history and weird fiction that holds a mirror up to contemporary America to reflect its fears and biases.The novel opens with scenes that will resonate powerfully for anyone attuned to global events of the past decade: a father saying goodbye to his son before the father, a military reservist, deploys to a remote country where a fanatical sect holds sway, and an engineered terrorist attack that brings three jetliners down on American soil in a single day. In both instances, the antagonists are not jihadists, but lycans: lupine shapeshifters who have lived among regular humans since prehistoric times, and who in 21st-century America are a stigmatized subclass, forced to suppress their bestial nature pharmacologically. In quick succession, Percy introduces the characters who are the major players in his novel's drama: teenager Patrick Gamble, the sole survivor of the airplane attacks; Claire Forrester, a teenage lycan on the run from government agents who killed her parents; Chase Williams, the opportunistic governor of Oregon (where most of the tale is set) who hopes to exploit fears engendered by the terrorist attack in his bid for the presidency; and Miriam, Claire's aunt, who has defected from the lycan resistance movement (headed by her husband), which takes credit for the terrorist attacks. Patrick briefly falls in with a group of scary antilycan skinheads who call themselves "the Americans" before befriending Claire. Patrick's father becomes a victim in the military occupation of the Lupine Republic, which is situated between Russia and Finland but is seemingly modeled on Iraq and Afghanistan. Chase becomes infected with the lobos prion that causes lycanthropy, and struggles to hide this from the public until a vaccine can be perfected. And the resistance, responding to increasingly inflammatory antilycan laws, plots ever more outrageous terrorist acts that escalate to an explosive denouement. Percy lends his novel's events credibility by working out a convincing pathology and epidemiology for the lobos prion, and situating the lycan struggle at the center of historical moments that echo 20th-century eugenics experiments, the civil rights movement, the '60s Days of Rage, and the current "war on terror," whose rhetoric he adapts brilliantly to his story's purposes. His precision-crafted prose conveys an astonishing amount of detail in as few words as necessary, as in this description of Claire's lupine transformation: "Her bones stretch and bend and pop, and she yowls in pain, as if she is giving birth, one body coming out of another." The confidence and assuredness with which Percy tells his story compel him to take some risks that pay off in a shocker of a finale that follows through audaciously on the possibilities of his tale's premise. By tapping the zeitgeist of the contemporary sociopolitical climate and distilling it into a potent myth concerned with the tyranny of the majority and the demonization of the Other, he has written an ambitious, epic novel that deserves to reach a larger readership beyond genre audiences. Stefan Dziemianowicz is co-editor of Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
In Percy's (The Wilding) fantasy, werewolves have coexisted alongside humans since the seventh century. Outside their northern European homeland, the Lycan are a discriminated against minority, forced to take drugs to prevent their transformation from person to wolf. In addition, American armed forces have occupied the Lycan Republic to control its uranium reserves. In retaliation, the werewolves resort to terrorism. Clair's Lycan parents were killed by government agents after a terrorist attack. She escapes and hides out with an aunt in Oregon. Patrick goes to live with his mother in the same town following his father's deployment to the Lycan Republic. The book's premise holds the possibility of examining contemporary political, racial, and sexual issues. However, the slow pace of the story fails to hold listeners' attention. The author, who reads here, does not do a particularly good job. Verdict A disappointment; not recommended. ["This literary thriller by an award-winning young writer will excite fans of modern horror who enjoy a large canvas and a history to go with their bloody action," read the much more enthusiastic starred review of the Grand Central hc, LJ 3/1/13.-Ed.]-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Percy tries his hand at horror in his latest novel. Here, he envisions a world divided between those infected with a disease that turns them into lycans and those who are disease free. Patrick climbs aboard a plane headed to his mother's as his military father leaves for an assignment. After takeoff, a lycan wreaks havoc, killing everyone in the cabin area except for Patrick, who hides under a pile of dead bodies. Dubbed "Miracle Boy" by the media, the teen tries to live down his instant fame but seems destined instead to be haunted by it. Meanwhile, lycan Claire witnesses the terrifying murder of her parents and flees ahead of the mysterious avenging agency that seems dedicated to killing off the lycan population. A man with questionable character who may or may not run for president, a woman married to a lycan ringleader and a lycan rebel round out the large cast of characters in this novel about the struggle between the lycans and their uninfected counterparts. At stake: the lycan nation's place in society and a country that was once theirs and the toll the escalating war between the two is taking. The smaller story follows the growing romance between Patrick and Claire. Running with gore--almost every page drips blood--and soaked in violence, the book switches back and forth between characters. Percy elbows his way into the horror genre, adding literary polish along the way, but this tale rambles on much too long, with page after page of superfluous detail. Percy leans toward colorful and obscure terms or word usages that will propel many casual readers to pause and pull out their dictionaries, often with unsatisfying results. Percy births an interesting concept that he then submerges in a writing style that is both affected and self-consciously literary.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.