Monday, December 5, 2011

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan — 304 pgs

Jacob Marlowe is the world’s last werewolf, and he’s been living a life of utter ennui for the past hundred years. On the run from the agents of WOCOP, a specialized government unit that exists specifically to hunt down and kill werewolves, Jacob is ready to hand himself over and be done with it. A very cerebral man/wolf, Jacob has lived through some harrowing times and is a little over 200 years old. His frightening assimilation into a wolf and his unquenchable hunger and libido make him unlike any werewolf you may have encountered before, and his desire to balance out his carnal pleasures with slightly philanthropic endeavors has been the only thing to make his existence bearable for the last century. With the help of his close friend Harley, a double agent who also works for WOCOP, Jacob is looking forward to ending this nightmare once and for all. But when two very unexpected events take place within a few days of his planned surrender, Jacob finds that he might not be so keen on quitting the game as he had once thought he was. Now it’s a race against time to save the last werewolf from extinction, and in addition to the agents who exist only to hunt him, he’ll also come into contact with some seriously disturbing vampires who want Jacob for a different purpose entirely. In this dark and malevolent novel, violence and sex collide head-on as Jacob seeks to accomplish the impossible task of surrendering himself to his nature and getting out of it alive.

Though I’m not the most avid enthusiast of audiobooks, I’ve recently become more enamored of them and have started to seek out more and varied titles to be explored in audio. Part of this is due to Sandy’s influence, as she’s always directing me to the best books as well as ones I might be better off avoiding. We had hoped to listen to this book on our trip to SIBA but instead got caught up in chatting, so I grabbed this book for myself when we got back and began to listen. What I found was a very strange amalgam of the reflections of a man given over to his basest desires and his eventual struggle to come to terms with them. This audiobook was narrated by the very vocally talented Robin Sachs: a man whose voice thrummed with passion and melancholy with equal fervor. He was the perfect choice to tell Jacob’s story.

The first thing I have to mention is that the book was extremely graphic, and not only in the ways you might expect. As Duncan goes to great lengths to explain, his version of the werewolf is a *very* sexual being. This translated into Jacob’s reflections having the vague tint of pornography at times. My first forays had me a little uncomfortable, for although I’m not really a prude, these bits of sex were extraordinarily detailed. And there were a lot of them. When Jacob wasn’t pondering his predicament of being half man and half wolf, he spent a lot of time satisfying his raging libido. Sex to this creature seemed almost like a compulsion, and like a compulsion, he thought about it incessantly and tinged and tied every remembrance of his life towards some sort of sexual escapade. It may sound as if this was sexy, but to me, it was not. After awhile it became a bit overwhelming and some of his reflections had me rolling my eyes and wishing that Duncan would just get on with it.

Most of the story was centered on Jacob’s perpetual inklings of what it meant to be human and what it meant to be the perversity of nature that he now was. Not only was he literally a monster, because he was the last of his kind, he was lonely in a way that most of us can’t comprehend. There was singularity in both his forms, and to Jacob, life was more of an annoyance to be suffered through than a marvelous feast of the heart. He wasn’t overly concerned with the plights of his victims, and this in itself lent an air of recklessness to his personality; instead there was a great sense of Jacob’s being devoid of all the softer emotions. In essence, the wolf robbed him of much more than his humanity: It robbed him of his ability to find the importance in life itself. Part of this had to do with some of the things he did in his wolf-state, but another part had to do with his incredible lack of understanding himself, both as a man and as a wolf.

When the tables begin to be turned on Jacob and he realizes that he must survive at all costs, the stakes are raised greatly. Now he can’t waste any more time wondering if indeed he should be alive, and all the brain power that he has expended on his existential plight must now be focused on freeing himself from the traps slowly closing around him. And it is quite a conundrum, as Jacob is soon discovering. There are people who have been on his side all along whom he has always considered threats, and a strange discovery at a train station makes him begin to question all that he has ever known. This discovery changes everything both past and present, and it seems that Jacob isn’t the only one to have discovered it. A thrilling and racing adventure full of intrigue and sabotage begins to be played across the pages that will take the reader into the heart of a man who’s finally beginning to understand all that he was so willing to throw away at the story’s inception.

This story had a bittersweet ending, and though it was graphic and violent, it held my interest and even made me laugh a bit with its dark cynicism and spot-on cogitations. It’s not a book for the faint of heart, but one that elevates the typical werewolf story into something a little more literary and a lot more provocative. I think those readers who experience this book in audio are in for a treat, because the narration by Sachs does a lot to inveigle the reader into the wayward mind and behavior of a creature that we all can understand but are loathe to identify with. A very interesting and strangely kinetic read.

20 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Sandy influences a lot of people!

I'm not sure this is for me. I can read books that are graphic like that but listening to them takes it to a whole new level that's not for me. I always wonder if the narrator is comfortable reading material like that.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Ugh, I don't think I would like this book. I think I will pass. Not into werewolves (or Vampires)or graphic sex for that matter! LOL
I did like reading your review though!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's hard to talk about because of the spoilery thing, but you did such a great job! I loved this book because I loved the language, and I loved the contemplation on existence and what it means. I found the ending very sad!

Vasilly said...

You're definitely right about all the sex parts. After awhile, I wanted to start skimming those parts for more exciting things! I was shocked about the ending but it seems like there's going to be another book.

Anita said...

I love a well done audio book. I have to admit while I like some sexual tension in a book this one might be too much.
Sandy certainly made me think about audio books and using my driving time wisely!!

Suko said...

Terrific review! I like the fact that this genre is taken to new heights. I'm glad you enjoyed listening to this one.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This one doesn't sound like one for me. Great review!

Jenners said...

Sandy is the one who got me to try audios … you are so lucky to have her in your own backyard. I shall have to add this to my Audible wish list!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Although the themes you point out are very interesting, and you've done a great job with the review, I don't think THE LAST WEREWOLF is a book for me. Hmm, I make that judgement, then think, well maybe I should stretch outside my comfort zone ...

Talk about an influencer! I think you and Sandy are a matched set :)

Beth F said...

This would be a better print book for me. That way I can begin to skim when the the sex scenes become all too much. I'm no prude either, but sometimes enough is enough. LOL.

Kaye said...

Your review is wonderful, Heather, as always. I'm not into werewolves at all and even less into graphic sex. Definitely not the book for me but I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've been debating on picking this one up, but what holds me back is the graphic sex piece. Now, no way would I consider myself a prude, either, but I just don't know if I can pick it up in an audio form! This might be a print read for me at some point. Excellent analysis, and may have pushed me over the edge to pick this one sooner rather than later...! :)

Harvee said...

A good thriller, it seems, though not exactly one I'd listen to right now. Great review!

Marie said...

i think i want the audio! :-)

Ti said...

I tried to read this one twice, but it just didn't work for me. I never even got to the sex parts!

I don't like it when authors include overly gratuitous sex just for the sake of including it though.

Stepping Out of the Page said...

Fantastic review but it doesn't look like it'd be my kind of book. Thanks for the insight, though!

Jenna said...

Great review! This book sounds interesting, but I'd have to stick with the physical copy. I'm just not cut out for audio books as my mind always seems to wander off.

By the way, I always love your synopsis of the books you reviews. So thorough!

Kailana said...

I am curious about this book, but that is as far as it has gone... One day I should read it!

TheBookGirl said...

No, this is not for me. It combines too aspects that are squirm-inducing: werewolves (and vampires, zombies, etc.) and too much explicit sexual description.
I think it's great though that you read (and now listen to) such a wide variety of literature.

Jenny said...

I'm not a prude either, but I have a feeling I'd be annoyed with all the sexual stuff!

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