I recently finished Red Moon by Benjamin Percy. I picked it up on impulse while in a bookstore because the synopsis sounded interesting and I was on a bit of a horror bent. The cover mentioned werewolves and secrets and hidden cabals which sounds great, but the story was far grander than I expected. The book has werewolves, sure, but it becomes so much more than that, and it is certainly not standard horror fare. The scope of this book is global and it became far more ambitious than anything in the synopsis suggests. It’s an American novel with worldwide implications in much the same way as Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy.
The comparison between Cronin and Percy here is apt in more ways than one. They both share a scope and a national setting, they have global implications and the threat of a race that is not quite human. They are also denser books, with a far more literary and ambitious prose, which distinguishes them from the bulk of fiction and genre fiction that address similar tropes or themes. Werewolves and vampires are a tired concept in a lot of respects, but both of these books have the distinction of turning the mythologies on their heads and making something fresh, compelling, dark and repellent. They are very character driven. The motivations and machinations of the cast of characters create something that feels far more established and organic. The worlds are more complex because of them.
Percy’s werewolf is the creature lurking in the dark, the shadow at the edge of your vision, but they are equally the person next door. A person restricted and persecuted and hated for being different, for diverging from the status quo and demonised because of a lunatic fringe. This is not an irrelevant discourse at the moment, we may not have werewolves but people are more than willing to construct other cultures into a spectre of fear.
The plot progresses through multiple point of view characters. I didn’t feel that any particular point of view outstayed their welcome. This was a relief and a gift, because that is hard to do. Anyone that has read a novel or series with multiple points of view would have hated at least one of the characters. I know I have, but that didn’t happen for me this time. All of them are complex, morally grey and interesting. They are distinct and stake their own claim in their world; it never feels contrived or forced. That is not to say that they aren’t often frustrating, because they are, but they are more realistic for their flaws. That’s an impressive and admirable achievement and a very fine line to tread. It’s the sort of thing you read and immediately wish you could write like that.
I would like to say more, but I’m not going to spoil too much of the plot for anyone who might read this; suffice it to say this book is interesting and the themes have never been more relevant. Give it a chance to hook you and you’ll be in for the long haul. And you’ll hate Puck. Seriously, fuck you, Puck.