"Red Moon" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Written by Benjamin Percy
2013, 544 pages, Fiction
Released on May 7th, 2013
Whenever I review something that is werewolf-centric, I usually mention that it's my favorite genre, then I go on to complain (or ponder why) there's not enough great movies or books that put these magnificent beasts at the front and center. Think about it for a moment, how many great books or movies are there out there that concentrate on the lycan? You could probably count on one hand for each medium. Fortunately, you can add another to the written side with Benjamin Percy's Red Moon, a flawed but enjoyable read.
Generally with werewolf books or films, it's pretty much the same premise: the beasts are stuff of legend until your main character is attacked and begins his or her change, thus beginning the long road to finding a cure (usually involving a gypsy or strange character that has an in with lycan lore). But that's not the case with Red Moon. Instead of being creatures unknown to the general populace, those that have the ability to change into a flesh eating monster are treated as second class citizens; ones that are to be feared and not trusted.
Red Moon tells many stories in its 500-plus pages, ones that cover numerous points of views. There is the rising politician who wants the werewolves on a national register, the young kid who is the only survivor of a terror attack launched by the lycans, the girl he falls in love with who’s a shape-changer herself, and numerous others who weave in and out of the lives of these three. Each character plays an important role in giving an alternate point of view, and Percy does an admirable job with making his players not just true to life, but also gives each a distinctive enough voice that there's no confusion to their motivations.
More than a simple werewolf story, Red Moon is a statement on society and how it treats those that are different (be it beliefs or appearance). The wolves in the book clearly represent Muslims in today's world. Lycan extremists perform acts of terror (yes, there are plane tragedies involved) in an attempt to not just force more equal rights, but also to remove the occupying of the United States in The Lupine Republic (pretty much the motherland of the werewolf). Red Moon also re-writes history a bit, involving those infected with the change from flesh to fur in things such as the civil rights movement of the Sixties, World War II, and more. It's an interesting alternative universe, and it's one that makes you think.
I'm still on the fence over how all of this is handled, though. Percy isn't delicate with his handling of the topic and I couldn't help but think of George Romero when reading the book. In Romero's early filmmaking days, his political and societal beliefs were, while not quite subtle, definitely underplayed. You could tell what he was getting at with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, but it wasn't too overt. But with the Land of the Dead, the master of zombies was beating his politics into your head with a bat. It didn't make the movie bad, it was more of, “Christ, George, we get it already.” Red Moon is like that. There is no subtlety whatsoever. There are stand-ins here for Barrack Obama, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry (I'm speculating here, but I'm betting I'm not too far off – it's either him or Michelle Bachman or a combo of the two), maybe Karl Rove, and more. On one hand, I like the alternative history aspect of the novel and enjoy picking out the characters' real life counterparts. On the other, at points it borders on too much – and I happen to agree with the point Percy is trying to make. Yet, like Land of the Dead, Red Moon is enjoyable regardless because of the talent behind the pages. But, like Land of the Dead, one has to wonder if Red Moon will alienate some of its readers due to the heavy-handed politics found within it.
For its length, Red Moon is a fast read. Percy keeps it action heavy while maintaining enough drama and suspense to keep you interested. He also has this knack of keeping you eager to not put the book down as there are many, many times throughout where something major is about to happen to a character and the chapter ends and a new one begins with a different character where they left off (not unlike a TV show that leaves you hanging until next week). Fortunately, there aren't any instances of “they didn't get out of the cockadoodie car!” found, and he brings each cliffhanger to a satisfactory close. In addition, the book is filled with enough twists and turns (including an ending that I have to admit surprised me, all things considered), so I never found myself skipping through to get to something of more interest as it was all entertaining.
Red Moon is a great read for us werewolf lovers and a delightful bonus if you dig stories of alternative history. The politics may turn off some readers, but they will be missing out on a tale that is grand in scope with plenty of action, thrills, blood, violence and, dare I say it, even a message that is ripe for conversation. If I were a member of a book club, this would be one I would certainly want to throw in the mix for the intellectual discussion that could stem from it.