Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice

I always feel like I should be more excited after an Anne Rice than I am. It's not that that I dislike her books; I just don't feel drawn to them. And it seems like I really should! I love all that supernatural stuff – vampires and the like. Somehow, the reality just never lives up to my expectation.

Now, I don't claim to be a Rice aficionado, definitely not. I've read The Witching Hour, the first book in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy. Frankly, I was not a fan – clearly, since I didn't read the other two. I always planned on reading the others. In fact, I think Lasher is on my Goodreads list. See, it's always been in the plan. Although, a friend of mine has read all of them and says the first was the best by far. Not exactly the kind of comment to get you to read the others, huh? Especially if, like me, you didn't really like the first one. I should clarify that I liked most of it. It's just that by the end I was incredibly irritated with the characters. I don't even remember all that much why (it's been several years), I just remember the feeling of irritation.

I have liked a couple of her more recent books though. If you're a fan, you know that Rice has recently gone through a transition of sorts. She was raised Catholic, but for much of her life had a crisis of faith, let's say.  Recently (in the past few years), she has rediscovered her faith. I'm obviously paraphrasing and if you want to know more about it, I'm sure you can find articles, interviews, or even a blog by the woman herself. As part of this, or due to this, or as homage to this, she wrote books about the life of Jesus. I found these to be very good books and would recommend them to anyone, even if you're not particularly religious. Maybe that's because my expectations were so different from what I'd expected from her other books. (As a side note, this expectation works against Rice as well. I tried to get my mom to read the Jesus books – she was having none of that!)

I don't even really enjoy the movies I've seen based on her work. Again, I always feel like I'm missing some secret that makes it so exciting to so many others.

Anyway, my point is that I never feel as good about her books as I feel like I should. I mean, she's the master of this kind of book, right?! So, I should love them! And yet… 
So, the book at hand is (duh) about a werewolf. Really, it's about becoming a werewolf. Mild mannered reporter – this is not a quip, Rice actually presents her character as this cliché – is attacked while visiting an old house, mansion really, for a story. Well, actually, it's more complicated.

He goes to this house for a story and "falls in love" with the owner (PS, he already has, not a gf, but a fiancé) and they sleep together. Later, he's sleeping and hears glass break and the owner screaming, and runs to the rescue. Turns out, her drug addict brothers have broken in to murder their sister. The brothers stab the reporter, Ruben, repeatedly before being stopped by a beast. The beast also attacks Ruben, before leaving him to wait for rescue. Oh, the beast also calls 911.

Of course, Ruben ends up turning. Once he turns is when the book starts getting interesting. Rice, as usual, has a new perspective on what it means to be a werewolf. First, the change itself is not painful, but intensely pleasurable. Euphoric, even. Second, there is at no time a loss of consciousness. They are themselves always and remember everything. There is no raving beast here. Third, they can smell evil and only kill those people; it is impossible for them to harm an innocent. Of course, when you rip people apart, even when you're doing it to clearly save someone else, the authorities tend to notice - and the hunt for the Man Wolf in on. Still, gone is the werewolf filled with angst and guilt and horror at his new state a la Richard.

It's, frankly, so refreshing. Ruben does suffer some…misgivings, but they're more in reference that he has no misgivings and that he's left to figure everything out himself. It turns out he's not left alone, but he doesn't know it until the end. There are others – a pack – related to the owner of the house. I should interject here that the owner was selling the house and changed her will right before her death to ensure Ruben got the house if she died before it sold. He had already told her he wanted to buy it. It was her uncle's home, going to her when he was declared dead, and her uncle is one of the pack. Obviously, not dead. When the pack reveals itself, Ruben basically makes it a pack home.

There's also a love story, and also pretty much without angst. Ruben (eventually) ends things with this fiancé (though not until he's already with the new lady love).He falls in "love" with this one as fast as he did with the house's owner. She knows about his "condition" from the beginning and, once the pack reveals itself and starts sharing secrets, the plan is to turn her as well. As I said, gone is the angst from this decision - being "infected" is desirable.

I should also state, for those who have knowledge of her previous books, this didn't seem to have the…sensuality her pre-religious-awakening books seem to have. Though, clearly bouncing around from partner to partner and falling in "love" like you change socks is cool. 

The plot's antagonists come from a nefarious force (no, they really are evil – Ruben smells it) that wants to imprison Ruben for experimentation. Turns out this same force is what made the pack disappear in the first place. The pack obviously escaped. They basically use Rueben as bait to kill the evil "scientists" and all is well.

And that's basically it. I enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to read another tragic "woe is me" version of the werewolf genre. And props to her for doing it that way. Ruben is a bit…whiney, even before the attack (for all of 10 pages lol), but it's not about the wolf. He's not whining about this horrible curse. The "curse" is his favorite part of his life. And, IMHO, this is a purposeful choice by Rice. She's created a character that is supposed to be perceived as a bit…maybe immature is the word. Or as close as I can get. Certainly sheltered, undeveloped, not fully formed. The wolf completes him (hello, Jerry Maguire reference!).

Will I read the next book, The Wolves of Midwinter? I don't know. Eventually, probably. It's going on my list, but it won't be something I'm rushing to the store to get. I'm just not excited.  

The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice

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