Cannonball Read V: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
Have you ever been to a party that looks great on paper, only to get there and be saddled talking to that guy? He will insist on rhapsodizing poetically on mundane things only he would find interesting or profound, and keep you from doing what you really want to do—get your drink on. Welcome to The Last Werewolf.
Jacob Marlowe is the last werewolf in existence. All other werewolves have been hunted to extinction by the World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena (WOCOP). Their lead hunter, Garnier, is looking for a final show down, Inigo Montoya style, after Were-Marlowe killed his father 40 years ago. However, he wants the wolf not the man, and will wait until the next full moon for his confrontation. Marlowe, after 200 years of living, killing, and copulating (werewolves are notoriously horny) is over it all, and ready to die. After all, it’s lonely being the last werewolf in existence, especially when it’s been a nonstop sausage fest, as the lady werewolves have gone the way of the Ent wives. No one knows where they are, if they ever existed at all. So what’s a lonely, nihilistic, world weary werewolf to do when he’s ready to die at the next full moon? If you said have many graphic sexual encounters with a prostitute, you’d be correct! However, not all is what is appears to be, and Marlowe is about to find out there are many interested parties who are interested in his life.
Here’s the thing about The Last Werewolf, it’s a very good premise, with a very pedantic and mild-to-moderate misogynistic execution. I found myself rolling my eyes and skipping paragraphs of expositional prose while Marlow went on and on about the human condition while he pensively sipped his scotch and smoked his cigarettes. Oh brother. I get it, he’s 200 years old, he’s killed thousands remorselessly, but he says the same cynical narcissistic platitudes over and over. For me, Duncan broke the cardinal rule of storytelling- show, don’t tell. What could have been a very tight and interesting narrative gets bogged down by Marlowe’s incessant lectures and sly observations. Duncan seems very keen for us to get that Marlowe is smart(!) however, instead of showing us that, he lets Marlowe tell us he’s smart… A lot.
Additionally, characters in this book do not talk the way we mere mortals do, which I suppose is to let you know they’re smart and deep too. For me they just come off like the guy at the party who will make a point of asking everyone if the food is organic and vegan, and you just want to look at him dead-eyed and tell him it’s a (delicious) Costco party platter. Of course it’s not.
What bothered me more than pretentious characters, is the almost comical overuse of the word “c*nt”. No kidding, saying it was used 50 times in a 345 page book is a very conservative estimate. Every time a woman’s genitals were mentioned (which was frequently) there it was again. I’m not a prude, but when you couple this with every time a female character is introduced, we’re given a graphic description of her breasts, you can’t help but call shenanigans.
I wanted to like The Last Werewolf, I really did, but Duncan made it so hard for me. This is a grittier, more explicit and less fun version of the world Charlaine Harris created in her Sookie Stackhouse series. Think Twilight for the New York Times crowd.
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