Werewolves have always been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. Occasionally, I allow myself to indulge in a mini-spree of lupine literature. When I requested that The Craving (the sequel to The Pack) be held for me at Pulp Fiction, my trusted source recommended that I give The Last Werewolf a try. Given my affection for werewolves and the fact that Pulp Fiction’s recommendations have never let me down, I didn’t need to deliberate too long before deciding to buy it, too.
The Last Werewolf is a punch in the gut. You think you know what to expect, but it floors you anyway. And even once the shock of it is over, you can still feel the persistent ache from the impact. It’s that good.
Now, there are a few things you need to know before you pick this book up.
Firstly, The Last Werewolf is NOT another post-Twilight foray into human-lupine relationships. There is no paranormal romance here, readers, and if that’s what you’re into, I’d advise you to leave The Last Werewolf on the shelf.
Jake Marlowe is (as you might have guessed) the last known werewolf in the world. For centuries, he’s been hunted by the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena (WOCOP), but he’s managed to avoid being caught. Although he’d like to be able to say that this was due to his own cunning, the fact of the matter is that for the last fifty years, he’s had a man on the inside – his best friend Harley.
Now that he’s been confirmed as the very last of his kind, Jake has jumped to the very top of the wanted list. Harley, now in his seventies, begs him to flee from civilisation, but Jake refuses. After nearly three hundred years of life as a werewolf, he’s ready for the end. Tortured by the Curse that falls upon him with the turning of the moon, Jake is at the constant mercy of the wolf that shares his soul. He is a monster and a man at once, and the impossibility of this existence has readied him for death.
Unfortunately for Jake, this isn’t good enough for WOCOP. They’re ready for a fight, and they’re pulling every dirty trick they know to try coax the lupine aggression out of Jake. He’s not willing to play, though – the way he sees it, if WOCOP want his life, they can take it on his own terms. But then the impossible happens, and Jake finds that his priority is no longer to seek death – rather, he’s found a reason to stay alive.
Yes, there is love in this book. A huge, transcendent love. Romance, though? Not a skerrick.
Second thing to consider before reading The Last Werewolf: this book is heavy on the prose.I don’t mean that the author throws in one too many adverbs; in parts, The Last Werewolf reads like song lyrics (which is not all that surprising, given that Nick Cave’s recommendation is on its cover). It’s not an easy read, and you need to invest yourself in the novel if you really want to get something out of it. If you’re not keen on abstract, poetic prose, it’s not for you.
Duncan’s writing makes Jake’s experiences intensely personal. His observations, his actions and his thoughts are relayed to the reader with astonishing clarity and poignancy. In fact, Duncan’s narration is so intimate that the reader begins to truly suffer alongside Jake.
When I first started the book, I became quite bogged down in Duncan’s writing. It might even be fair to say that the beginning of the book is a little overwritten. However, I had been warned that this might happen, and I was determined to get past it. About a quarter into the story, something clicked for me and the author’s obsessively descriptive prose became the rhythm of the narrative. The beauty of Duncan’s writing contrasts sharply with the brutality of the story, and the book itself becomes an embodiment of the werewolf dichotomy – the hideous and the human, bound in a singularity.
In their cellular prison my devoured dead roused. (A consequence of eating people: the ingested crave company. Every new victim adds a voice to the monthly chorus.)
Lastly, The Last Werewolf is a very dark book. At its heart, it is a gritty exploration of a semi-suicidal mentality. It would be heartbreaking if it weren’t for the fact that Jake is a werewolf. The supernatural aspect allows the reader to distance themselves from the reality of such a mindset, given that it forces the narrative into the realm of the fictional. As his relationships are altered and developed, Jake’s psychological state changes, but it’s not an easy shift to endure. I became so emotionally invested in this book that I had to set it aside more than once. Unable to process any more devastation, I simply would have to close the novel and read something cheerfully trashy for a while, until I had prepared myself to re-enter Jake’s life.
Duncan demolishes the werewolf and builds it back up again, crafting an explosively convincing portrayal of a very modern monster. A highly literary, heavily written deconstruction of the traditional werewolf mythos, this book is not for the faint hearted, nor for the casual reader.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I keep telling myself I’m just an outmoded idea. But you know, you find yourself ripping a child open and swallowing its heart, it’s tough not to be overwhelmed by… the concrete reality of yourself.’
I honestly couldn’t decide whether to post a review of this book or not. I loved it so much, but it’s so hard to explain why I loved it that I felt I couldn’t do it justice. In the end, I decided to just do it anyway. If I convince someone else to read this book, I’ll have done it a service. If you would like a copy, give Pulp Fiction Booksellers a call on (07) 3236-2750.
Incidentally, my copy of the sequel to The Last Werewolf, Tallula Rising, should arrive on Tuesday. To say that I am impatient would be a gross understatement.