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Book Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

February 18, 2012 6 comments

Image of a wolf's eyes.Summary:
Reuben Golding is a talented new journalist who feels as if he is floundering around with no direction in his family of wealthy, talented people.  That all changes when he’s bitten in a mysterious attack while writing about an old house on the seacoast.  He shortly discovers that the bite has turned him into a man wolf–like a werewolf, but with the ability to change every night.  Oh, and also he has an insatiable desire to devour those who smell like evil.  His quest for answers about his new situation will open up a whole new world to him.

Review:
It needs to be said that having read only Anne Rice’s earlier books, I somehow missed the memo that she went from atheist to Catholic in the early 2000s.  As an agnostic myself, one of the things I love about her earlier novels, beyond the poetic writing, is this search for meaning without belief in a god that the characters demonstrate.  So.  I was less than thrilled to find god all up in my werewolves.  *growl*

But it of course is more than philosophical differences that make this book bad.  The writing is just….not what it used to be.  The pacing is off.  Parts of the novel wax eloquent about the redwood forests, but then action sequences feel like Rice was trying to mimic the style of pulp authors like Palahniuk.  (Something that she does poorly, btw).  I get wanting to try a new style, but you need to pick one or the other.  The up and down almost randomness of the style changes made it difficult to get into the story.

Then we have the story itself.  If Rice had gone just slightly more absurd, this would make an excellent humorous novel.  Of course, it’s not meant to be.  A perfect example is one scene that I keep thinking over just for the giggles it gives me.  The scene, is supposed to be one of the pivotal, more serious ones in the book, naturally.  Reuben is in his wolf form and having just run through the forest eating animals, he stands on his hind legs and spins in a circle while singing the Shaker song “Simple Gifts.”  And then a woman in a cabin sees this and naturally they have the hot hot beastiality sex.  (Note: I do not actually find this scene hot at all.  In fact I find it really fucking disturbing, and I don’t find ANYTHING disturbing usually).  It isn’t like scenes of sex and violence in other novels that are part of an overall narrative designed to help you understand something.  It’s not an allegory of anything either.  It just is there because….yeah, I don’t know why it’s there, actually.

Then we have the wonderful presence of an atheist character who is clearly there so Rice can lecture atheists via her book.  Oh you silly atheists! Of course there’s a god!  The whole of nature is reaching toward him and yadda yadda yadda *eye-roll*  This is just bad writing.  It’s such an obvious attempt to be able to directly lecture the readers that it’s painful to see.  Particularly after knowing that Rice is capable of actual eloquent writing.

Also the whole entire concept of having werewolves actually be evil-fighting do-gooders is like a furry version of Batman. And who wants that? Nobody, that’s who.

Speaking of Batman, if I have to read one more book about a poor little privileged white boy, I’m going to lose my mind.  Aww, poor Reuben, he has a high-achieving lawyer girlfriend who loves him, a surgeon mother, a giving brother, and a professor father, but Reuben is bad at science and everyone tells him a 23 year old can’t write.  People need to take him seriously!  Poor Reuben.  And Reuben claims he changes after getting the “wolf gift” but he really doesn’t.  He still whines to anyone who will listen and runs around trying to tell everyone else what to do but never bothers to actually force himself to grow up.  He could have been an interesting main character if the wolf gift actually challenged and changed him.  But it doesn’t.  He’s still the same, whiny, privileged rich kid.  Only now he’s surrounded by the slightly creepy doting wolf pack.

Oh, and Rice?  Wolf packs don’t consist of only one gender, idiot.  Research? Have you heard of it?

Overall, this was an incredibly irritating and frustrating read that I disliked so much I’m not even going to do my usual of passing on my reviewer’s copy to my dad.  This one is going in the recycling bin.  And you all should give it a pass as well.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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Movie Review: The Nightmare Never Ends (1980)

Man with light coming out of his eyes.Summary:
A devout Catholic woman married to an atheist professor who has just published a book called God is Dead starts having nightmares about Nazis and dead people in the water.  Meanwhile, a Jewish hunter of Nazi war criminals shows up mysteriously murdered with his face ripped off and the numbers “666” tattooed on his chest.  The tenuous connections between these two soon reveal a dark presence on the planet.

Review:
This movie can best be summed up in the phrase: Satan at the Disco.  Satan is not just alive and beautiful (not handsome, beautiful) but is a disco-going playboy complete with a harem of hypnotized women who actively participated in Nazi atrocities back in the day.  In spite of Satan’s presence at the disco, I found myself wanting to go there.  I have to say, it certainly seemed more appealing than Tequila Rain on Lansdowne Street.

This film is an odd mix of things done well and things done horribly badly.  The special effects are surprisingly good for the time with certain scenes managing to surprise and/or gross out my friend and myself.  Of note is one particular scene where a character’s eyeball pops out from his head.  Quite gruesome for the special effects of the time.  On the other hand, the actress playing the Catholic woman cannot act to save her life.  She can, however, scream quite well, which is apparently what she was hired for.  The plot is creative and features a fun twist at the end, but it wanders around a bit too much and is confusing for about the first 40 minutes of the film.  It needed some serious editing before being filmed.  Similarly, the set designers clearly had no comprehension of Jewish culture at all as they decided to show that the Jewish man’s ethnicity by randomly having a fully-loaded menorah ever-present on his nightstand.  *face-palm*

In spite of these shortcomings though, the story is still unique enough that the film is enjoyable, particularly if you enjoy bad horror with a touch of classic 1970s disco.  I therefore recommend it to the tiny percentage of the population for which both of those statements holds true.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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