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The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

The Last Werewolf (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Glen Duncan

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996788,597 (3.61)1 / 205
Title:The Last Werewolf
Authors:Glen Duncan
Info:Knopf (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:New, Gift, 21st Century, English, Fantasy, Novel, Werewolf, Meta-Fiction, Paranormal, Horror, Urban Fantasy

Work details

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (2011)

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Glen Duncan is not a coy writer. This book, it turns out, is about the last werewolf in the world. His name is Jacob Marlowe, and he’s an obsessive journal-keeper. So we get to read his story in chunks, as he has time and safety to set them down.

And, because that’s the structure, the reader never gets to feel safe. Yes, this book is a first-person narrative. Usually that wraps the reader in a security blanket: it’s all right, he’s still talking, he must still be all right. The Hunger Games trilogy tried to yank that warm shawl away by writing in the first person but also in the present tense: she’s all right now, but will she still be okay in five minutes? It didn’t work, of course. We knew Katniss would get through. We just didn’t know how, or who else would survive with her.

Duncan claims the best of both worlds. He grabs the warmth, the personal engagement that’s only possible in a first-person telling; but he insists on also keeping the tension that goes along with third-person. The reader has to wonder with terrifying regularity if she’s holding Marlowe’s last words.

If I’m talking so much about the structure and style of this novel rather than the story it tells, it’s because it holds so many surprises that it’s almost impossible to say anything about the actual plot without setting off a spoiler-bomb. And I don’t want to do that. You should read this book in as much ignorance as possible. Do not skip ahead, even a little.

Duncan is absolutely adept at camouflaging Chekhovian guns-that-must-be-fired so they look like harmless pieces of driftwood littering the landscape. The result is a story with an incredibly tight weave. Every plot twist, every bit you learn about Marlowe’s terrifying world, builds organically on everything that came before. At the same time, nothing feels overworked, and the surprises manage to surprise every time.

A few things I can say about this book without ruining the story for you:

1. Duncan grapples head-on with the money aspect of how someone manages to be immortal. I absolutely adore Buffy the Vampire Slayer (own all seven seasons on DVD, rewatch them incessantly), but it drove me absolutely NUTS that they never dealt with Angel and money. How the bleep was that guy paying for that cool leather coat? Heck, how was he paying rent? Or for his pig’s blood? It wasn’t until he got his own series that the writers starting nodding in that direction, but it still wasn’t anything like rigorous.

Glen Duncan, on the other hand, is the Jane Austen of werewolf novels – if your werewolves are inconveniently immortal, that is, and Duncan’s are. Immortality is always inconvenient when the world expects you to be a good sport and die at some point. Sure, you won’t die of old age – but you still have to eat. I’m not giving anything away when I mention that Jacob Marlowe was fortunate enough to inherit wealth as a mortal. He explains in fascinating detail how he managed to hold on to that when he started outliving everyone around him. Yes, I’m a nerd, and yes, this is the kind of thing that makes me happy as a reader.

2. The sex in this novel is really well written. We’ve all seen, and cringed at, the other kind.

3. The universe is also beautifully crafted. I couldn’t find a single loose thread, and believe me, I was looking for one.

4. This novel is brutally, but not egregiously, graphic. I’m antisocial, and usually read during at least two meals a day (as well as tea and the period after dinner I like to call “I think I’ll have a little chocolate now,” which my son and my husband, who’s violently allergic to chocolate, take as a hint to leave me alone and let me read, already). This is usually the kind of novel I wouldn’t dream of having next to my plate. I want to enjoy my chocolate, and gore tends to get in the way of my pleasure. It’s a tribute to how compelling this story is that I couldn’t put this down even during breakfast – though I did sometimes have to fast-forward a bit during some of the grittier fight scenes.

5. Glen Duncan really knows how to kick a moral compass around. Is Marlowe sympathetic? If, or when, he is, is he sympathetic because you like him in spite of himself, because you’re compelled by his story, or because so many of the people who consider themselves good guys in this story are so much worse? Just when it feels as if you can’t forgive him – and by extension yourself if you keep reading his story, because it starts to feel as if you’re condoning amorality – Duncan throws another complication into the mess.

6. Glen Duncan is also quite willing and able to kick a reader’s heart around. This book is as brutal in that respect as it is when it comes to blood and gore.

Weirdly enough, in spite of the fact that I’m giving this book such a high rating, I may not read the sequel I rushed to get from the library before I even finished this volume. I’d give away too much by even hinting at why. If you’re dying to know, you can ask me in a comment and I’ll answer there. For here, suffice it to say that I was riveted by this book, but if I want a sequel, I’ll probably be content to imagine one of my own.
( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
The narrator is unpleasant. He is a monster and not a seductive one. His journey is complicated and in some respects the author knows he has unpleasant genre requirements. The sexual compulsons, the introduction of a league of werewolf hunters, the 50 families that rule the vampires, yadda, yadda. I was entertained only because of my inexperience with the genre and the plot surprises. I guess I'm not recommending this to anyone unless they are die hard fans of the genre. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Description: Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but otherwise in the pink of health. The nonstop sex and exercise he’s still getting probably contribute to that, as does his diet: unusual amounts of flesh and blood (at least some from friends and relatives). Jake, of course, is a werewolf, and with the death of his colleague he has now become the only one of his kind. This depresses Jake to the point that he’s been contemplating suicide. Yet there are powerful forces who for very different reasons want—and have the power—to keep Jake alive.

Here is a powerful new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerizing and undeniably sexy, and with moments of violence so elegantly wrought they dazzle rather than repel. But perhaps its most remarkable achievement is to make the reader feel sympathy for a man who can only be described as a monster—and in doing so, remind us what it means to be human.

Thoughts: This book is MAJORLY schizophrenic. In a very bad way. You can basically break it down into 5 sections and critique them all seperately. To be fair, the last section has an excuse... but that's about as generous as I can be on that front.

To give more credit where it is due, the first section of this novel was wonderful. Maybe a tad too many references to balls and cocks and assholes for my tastes, but there is some really good stuff there. Some beautifully written passages, full of the good kind of horror angst. The most amazing part, without giving too much away (although that does presuppose I'm going to recommend you read this, which I'm not), is Jake's tale of his infection and first transformation. If you like horror that actually has human emotion and eloquence, this part should blow you away. Come to think of it, I highly suggest just reading until you get through this bit, stopping, and pretending it's a short story.

Because from that point on it's crap. First it runs amuck in bad romance novel "mysterious document that explains all" land, then it skips over to ridiculous love at first sight, and then happily over to pointless conspiracy theory. None of which really makes sense or proves to be compelling reading. It's just NOT good.

Plus there is, along with the high body count, the wanton destruction of a glorious sounding personal library. So, no I don't particularly recommend this one.

http://www.librarything.com/topic/130721#3275741 ( )
  leahbird | Jan 13, 2015 |
This novel got a lot of buzz when it was released back in 2011, when I was working in a bookstore, and I recall filing it away on the TBR pile but have only just got around to reading it now. I timed it as my Halloween read, as part of my general pleasure at living in the northern hemisphere where the seasons actually correspond to the dates I subconsciously think they’re “supposed” to, after growing up on European and American culture. Probably this will wear off, but at the moment I’m trying to theme almost all my reading; I can’t imagine how one could bear to read a book set in summer when there’s rain drizzling down the windowpanes and the sun sets at 4pm.

Anyway, The Last Werewolf isn’t really a horror novel. Glen Duncan is more well-known as a literary author, dipping his toe in the pool of genre fiction (see also – Justin Cronin and The Passage), and The Last Werewolf contains more philosophy than frights. Jake Marlowe is the titular last of the kind, two hundred years old, wealthy and world-weary, spending his days as a human guzzling scotch and having sex with expensive escorts, and his full-moon nights as a werewolf killing and eating people. The Last Werewolf doesn’t romanticise this; Jake is a monster and he knows it, and the only reason he remains a relatively likeable character is because Duncan does such a great job of making him such a witty, civilised narrator. Informed of the death of the second-last werewolf at the hands of the Hunt division of WOCOP (the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena), and the personal vendetta the chief of the Hunt has against him, Jake learns that he has less than a month to live – the hunter wants the beast, not the man, and will wait for the full moon. Tired of life after two centuries of killing (a “concentration camp heap” of victims stretching into his past), he decides to accept his fate and return to Snowdonia, where he was first stricken with lycanthropy in the early 19th century. Of course, there are other things afoot, and Jake is soon embroiled in a globetrotting adventure across Wales, London, France, Greece and the United States, giving The Last Werewolf more than a touch of spy thriller to it. Combined with a weird acronym organisation for an antagonist and Jake’s taste for cigarettes, fine scotch and classy hotels, it’s a borderline James Bond vibe.

I greatly enjoyed the first half of The Last Werewolf. Above all else, Duncan is an excellent writer, sending Jake through wonderfully atmospheric places (snowy London streets, a book-filled Earl’s Court mansion, a peaceful Greek island) while he speaks to the reader in his fantastic narrative style: a sort of baroque Gothic rumination, belying his actual time of birth, which has been modernised and accrued yet more wisdom and cynicism as Jake has grown up through the ages, into the world of mobile phones and the internet. It’s eminently readable and a lot of fun.

It does, however, begin to wear a bit in the second half of the novel, not helped by a plot twist which leads the book to some annoying places. Love at first sight might be technically feasible, within the novel’s horror/fantasy parameters, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. There’s also a lot of sex and violence; I’m no prude, it’s just that too much of anything gets tedious, much like Jake’s initially fascinating monologues once he starts to cover the same ground in them. And the conclusion is a messy game of cat and mouse, full of abductions and double-crossing, which leans far too heavily into Jason Bourne territory. There are two sequels to The Last Werewolf, and while I would have been open to reading them if I thought they’d reflect the character of the first half, the resolution of the plot makes it pretty clear they’d be more like the second, so I’m not sure I will.

That all sounds fairly negative, but actually I liked The Last Werewolf a lot; I just always find it disappointing when a cracking novel goes downhill. It’s still one of the best books I’ve read this year. If you heard about it when it got all that press upon release but never bothered to read it, I recommend giving it a try; it’s not for everyone, but it’s worth your time to check it out.
1 vote edgeworth | Nov 2, 2014 |
The werewolf novel we have been waiting for! This beautifully written novel brings the reader in to Jake,the last werewolf on year's world. Jake has been around for 200 years when he told that he is the last werewolf. By this point he is tired of leaving and wants to just the organization WOCOP kill him. But i had to feel sorry for Jake when WOCOP kills Harley his friend and insider to the organization. Jake is all ready for the last hurrah of transformation, when while in the airport he meets Talulla and everything changes.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and would highly suggest to anon who loves werewolves. I felt like this book redefined the werewolf genre, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. ( )
  Hpfan28 | Nov 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
It is a horror that never shies from the human side of lycanthropy; it is a disquisition on the nature of werewolf stories; it is a sublime study in literary elegance. It is bloody (and) brilliant.
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"It's official," Harley said. "They killed the Berliner two nights ago. You're the last."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307595080, Hardcover)

Then she opened her mouth to scream—and recognised me. It was what I’d been waiting for. She froze. She looked into my eyes. She said, “It’s you.”

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

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.

One of the most original, audacious, and terrifying novels in years.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:33 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Rendered the last of his kind after a colleague's death, two-hundred-year-old werewolf Jake struggles with depression and contemplates suicide until powerful forces that have personal agendas and the power to keep him alive take over his life.

(summary from another edition)

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