05 September 2012

Book Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Title: The Last Werewolf
Author(s): Glen Duncan
Genre(s): Horror, Paranormal
Publisher/Date: Canongate Books Ltd / March 1, 2011
Series: The Last Werewolf (Book #1)

"Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend--mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century--a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way, deeply human." –Amazon.com

Case Study
Werewolves. They are stinky, vulgar and probably the most under-celebrated monster of the horror world. Our poor perception of these mythical beasts tends to ride in tandem with our unadulterated love for their sexier, glamorized, undead foes. Well, Glen Duncan is here to change all that. Meet Jake Marlowe—he’s the hero (and I say that in the loosest sense of the word) at the center of Duncan’s novel, The Last Werewolf. Jake is a 200 year old werewolf with a voracious libido. He loves good scotch, chain-smoking and philosophical musings. He’s also the last of his kind. When a secret paranormal organization seeks to exterminate him, he struggles to figure out his place in the world. Does he continue on with this violent, lonely existence or attempt to find some peace by giving up his life? Written in journal-format, we’re given an insider’s peek at Jake’s moral dilemmas, random musings and darkest secrets.

The Game's Afoot
The Last Werewolf is not what you’d expect for a book about werewolves. Just take a look at the author and I think it becomes clearly evident we’ve exited the realm of the ordinary. No, seriously. That's his actual photo on the back of the book. 

Now you see why this story has so much potential. And yes, I'm saying that I do judge a book by its cover, so to speak. But I digress. Duncan’s crafted an interesting dichotomy where the fiction sits somewhere in between horror and idealism. Make no mistake, folks, cultured as he is, our protagonist Jake isn’t a very nice guy. He has rampant sex with hookers and murders people in the most gruesome of ways. That is where the “horror” comes in to play. I mean, sure—a werewolf’s gotta do what a werewolf’s gotta do—but Jake’s so much more than that. We’re taken inside the mind of a man who’s at the end of his rope. It’s a story about the internal struggle to come to terms with the monster inside and make sense of how to keep on living when everything and everyone he loves is stripped away. It puts ethics to the test by asking, how does the human deal with moral accountability when the wolf comes out to play? In other words, it delves into some serious psychological shit.

My first initial impressions of this book weren’t all that great, if I’m being honest. I found the writing to be a bit tedious and wordy. But once I got past the blatant “oh-woe-is-me” monotony of the first few chapters, it transformed (much like Jake, himself) into something much more poignant and exciting, something not unlike a James Bond film, actually. It gets gritty, dark and in places, kind of campy. There are secret organizations, beautiful women, guns, cars and cliffhangers galore. But that’s also what keeps it from being too bogged down with intensity. That and amusing quips like “Reader, I ate him.” You can’t help but root for a guy like that, even if he is a "bad one." Character development isn’t Duncan’s only strength though. He holds our suspension of disbelief and brings the magic of transformation to life in his detailed descriptions of Jake’s physical and mental change. This is a real-world example of the old writer’s adage “show, don’t tell,” one that I’ve really come to appreciate. We’re given a clear sense of Jake’s world, both pre and post infection. Yep. There's even a bit of sci-fi sprinkled in there. Duncan flips the script on what we know about vampires, werewolves and the supernatural world and I have to say, it’s a refreshing change for the horror genre.

I know it sounds like there’s a lot going on and there is, but it's good stuff if you can just push through it. If you’re looking for “light reading” then this definitely isn’t the book for you, but for those enjoy a great piece of literature full of substance, you've found a sure winner. Duncan has done a superb job of creating an interesting albeit morally ambiguous protagonist. Jake Marlowe is someone I’d love chat with over a fancy dinner; ya know, provided there’s not a full moon that night. He’s cultured, wry, morose and deeply jaded, and despite all his tragic set-backs, we come to see that he’s still a man underneath all that monster. So I leave you with this, dear Reader: “In the meantime there’s the Curse to get through. Tonight’s the full moon, and the Hunger doesn’t care what you’ve been through or what your fears are or where you’ll be next week. There’s a comfort in it, the purity of its demand, its imperviousness to reason or remorse. The hunger, in its vicious simplicity, teaches you how to be a werewolf.” And wouldn't you know--that's something I've always wanted to know.

Summary Prognosis 
The Last Werewolf is definitely not what you’d expect from a horror novel—where most are all bark, this one’s all bite. It’s intense and philosophical, a total paradox—too silly to take seriously but also too well- written to go unappreciated. In any case, the premise alone makes this one completely worth the time. Just make sure you have a dictionary handy and are prepared for the deep, philosophical musings that it conjures up. Book clubs, unite! This is a discussionary winner!

Rating: ★★★★

Read It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Discuss It: Goodreads


  1. That picture is EPIC. I wish my copy had had it. Sadly I felt the same way you did about this book, but I didn't have the strength to finish it (which makes me crazy to not know the ending!)

    Great review, I found myself nodding my head!

  2. Epic is exactly the word I'd use to describe Mr. Duncan's photograph! Seriously, I saw that and knew I had to read this book. It was definitely a challenge but if you stick with it, there's some really good stuff. It does get better, trust me.

  3. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.
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    1. And thank you for stopping by, Andi! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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