Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

The Wolf Gift

By Anne Rice

Publisher: Knopf

Release Date: February 14, 2011

404 pages

ISBN: 978-0307595119

*I received this title from NetGalley

Let me start out by saying that I consider Anne Rice to be the Queen of the American Vampire genre. I can’t remember reading anything remotely comparable to her dark, lush, atmospheric Lestat Chronicles or her Mayfair Witch Files. Yes, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian totally kicked ass, but unlike Rice, she wrote one book about vampires, and then moved onto to something else

Back in 1993, I was introduced to Rice through The Witching Hour, her first in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches. I had nightmares for weeks and stopped reading the book after I was halfway through. I then started Interview with the Vampire a year or so later, and became a staunch Rice devotee. Yes, some of her characters  verged on cheesiness, and the whole religious debate thing could get a little tiresome at times, but on the whole, Rice was creating a world that I, along with millions of other people, would rather inhabit than my own.

I breezed through every one in both series, (and read countless other titles), then stopped at the Songs of Seraphim series. I was now an adult, and I wanted to read something different, something heavier out of my books.  That Rice converted to Catholicism was not a factor in this, but I’ve learned a lot of people stopped reading her books when she made the switch.

A few months ago, I read Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, and though  massively disappointed on a couple levels, I was overall thrilled that werewolves were finally getting their due. Enough about the bloodsuckers already!  

I expected that when Anne Rice entered the game, she would take the genre  by storm and show them all how it’s done.

Uh… no.

A quick synopsis of the novel:

Reuben, a young reporter, is doing a write up on a mansion for sale off the Pacific Coast. His guide is the older, beautiful niece of the owner, who mysteriously disappeared years before. As they inevitably succumb to a night of passion (as they usually do in Rice novels), they fall victim to a savage attack that leaves one of them dead and the other, critically wounded.

Reuben recovers at a rapid pace, confounding both the doctors and the media, and is now endowed with both superhuman abilities and strength. As he learns that he is becoming much like the beast that attacked him, he is both horrified and seduced by his new found capabilities. Think Spider-Man meets Wolf-Man. He hears the voices of those in peril, rushes off to rescue them, and leaves a wealth of eyewitnesses behind, thereby unleashing a nationwide search for the Superhero Man-Wolf. As Reuben becomes embroiled in both his own personal transformation and the calling to help others, he learns of a secret group of men who are like him, and possess knowledge about the nature and the origin of the beast he’s become.

Okay, now for my thoughts.

First, this is not Anne Rice’s best work. Second, this is not Anne Rice’s best writing. Third, towards the second part of the novel, it lapses into Anne Rice’s old territory but leaves much to be desired in its execution. Fourth, the love interest bit was completely unbelievable and eye-rolling worthy. Fifth, the first half of the novel was so filled with cliché and weird phrases and writing that seemed much more in line with that of a beginning writer who shows promise, than an established writer who’s sold well into hundreds of millions of copies of her books.

While there were enough reasons to stop reading this book (and I was tempted to), I kept hoping that I’d see something vaguely recognizable to Anne Rice’s talent. And though she reintroduces several familiar elements: the gorgeous house with history, the immortal creatures who know more than we know, the collision between religion and science and free will and destiny, the fabulously rich and beautiful characters that typically populate her novels, it just reads like a formulaic sub par novel written by someone trying to mimic Rice’s style and failing miserably.

That being said, Rice has an ability to write about philosophical questions that plague not only these monsters, but humanity in general, that puts her head and shoulders above most people writing about werewolves.

"Talk is suspect. When we talk about our lives, long or short, brief and tragic or enduring beyond comprehension, we impose a continuity on them, and that continuity is a lie. "
"It's the nature of mediocre human beings to believe that lies are necessary, that they serve a purpose, that truth is subversive, that candor is dangerous, that the very scaffold of communal life is supported by lies--."
We always come back to that--that both the brutal world and the spiritual world are sources of truth, that truth resides in the viscera of all those who struggle as well as in the souls of those who would transcend the struggle.