In the novel “The Wolf Gift,” author Anne Rice takes a break from her usual theme of vampires, demons and witches to explore lycanthropy, the ability to transform into a wolf.
Yes, it’s another book about werewolves, but even those who thought authors like Stephenie Meyer beat the final nail into the dark theme long ago may find “The Wolf Gift” contains some surprisingly appealing aspects.
The book’s protagonist, Reuben Golding, is a young journalist who visits an enchanting mansion to write a piece for the San Francisco Observer.
It doesn’t take more than a few pages for Reuben to become infatuated with the house and its occupant, the lovely Marchent Niddick. Unfortunately the attraction between Reuben and Marchent is cut short by a sudden bite that turns the protagonist into a werewolf.
After a bite from the enraged wolf, it should not come as a surprise to learn an onslaught of violence ensued. What is more interesting is the way Rice revised some of the traditional aspects of werewolf lore. The actual metamorphosis from human to wolf is not the painful experience that most literary or film adaptations depict. Instead, the transformation is a highly erotic transition, during which the character undergoes orgasmic spasms while he changes forms.
The general theme of sensuality is heavily prevalent throughout the novel, which will not surprise those familiar with Rice’s style. These moments are not limited to his transformation — the book is embedded with erotic scenes, many of which could be seen as comical.
What is worth appreciation in “The Wolf Game” is Rice’s incorporation of the modern world. Though she deals with elements of fantasy, she does not leave reality far behind. In fact, she embraces modern technology and social media.
As the wolf man, Reuben somewhat maintains his humanity as he tries to justify his urge to attack innocent people by going after murderers and rapists. His enhanced senses allow him to hear peoples’ cries for help, and once he finds these criminals, he literally tears them apart.
The original survivors of these attacks immediately report their sightings saying an
unnatural creature saved their lives. Soon enough, news organizations and the government address the issue. It is particularly humorous when she first mentioned that “wolf man” was trending on Twitter.
Rice does not shy away from complex intellectual themes. When Reuben becomes a sort of vigilante, the ethical ramifications of his actions inevitably arise. As he struggles to come to terms with his monstrous side, society attempts to justify the savage massacre of rapists and murderers.
The metaphysical discussions of evil are expected and even somewhat dreaded because intense philosophical speculation isn’t for everyone. However, the development of internal conflicts within characters is fascinating. Specifically, there is a beautiful moment when a grieving mother of one of Reuben’s victims insists her son deserved a trial, just like any other person.
These moments were thought-provoking, because it is interesting to imagine how the world would react to such a creature in real life. Rice manages to write the novel so Reuben’s horror mirrors the reader’s while he struggles to come to terms with his manslaughter.
Despite the complex themes, the novel is easier to read than Rice’s other works. Her prose is almost reminiscent of Stephen King with its stark clarity, which is particularly noticeable in the dialogue. In fact, if her name was not printed across the cover, it would be difficult to know that she wrote this book.
“The Wolf Game” is a great option for anyone who enjoys an easy read, the fantasy genre and a healthy dose of literary angst.