As always, the stack overfloweth. Here are some of the more interesting looking titles to make their way to Biblioklept International Headquarters.
Glen Duncan’s new novel The Last Werewolf is a book about a werewolf. That’s kind of a terrible way to begin a write-up, but let’s state the obvious: you probably know if you want to read a werewolf book or not. Duncan’s hero Jake Marlowe skews more noir (as his name suggests) than twinky Twilight—he’s a hard-drinking , chain-smoking, 200-year-old rascal who’s just learned that the only other living werewolf has just died (hence, he’s like, the last werewolf, man); compounding matters, he’s more than ready to die himself. A sinister cabal called the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena is after Jake, testing the limits of his suicide wish. Duncan’s prose is harsh, visceral, and occasionally a bit purple, but horror genre fans looking for more, uh, bite (jeez, sorry) from their books may wish to check out The Last Werewolf, new in hardback from Knopf. You can read Justin Cronin’s (The Passage) take at The New York Times; in the meantime, a morsel—
Transformation woke me to the smell of rust and fuel and seaweed. I was lying on my spasming back on a metal table and the restraints were gone. So were my clothes. Shoulders, shins, head, hands and haunches shunted blood and hurried bone to meet the Curse’s metamorphic demand. My circus of consumed lives stirred. The world felt strangely undulant. I thought, Well, I hope you’re ready for this, kidnapping fuckers, whoever you are. Then, throbbing with hunger for living meat, I howled and rolled over onto my side.
Bright’s Passage is the début novel from songwriter/musician Josh Ritter. This slim novel tells the story Henry Bright, a man who returns to the hills of West Virginia after the trauma of World War I only to have his wife (who is also his first cousin) die in childbirth. Bright buries her body and sets fire to their cabin, which sparks a massive forest fire. Bright then takes his infant son and flees, both from the fire and his unstable father-in-law, “The Colonel,” a vet of America’s adventures in the Philippines who still wears his uniform. The Colonel and his crazy sons pursue Bright, who is guided on the lam by the angel who talks to him—yeah, an angel directs Bright; in fact it was the angel’s idea that Bright marry his cousin, burn down his cabin, and run . . . also, the angel swears that Bright’s son is going to be, like, the new Messiah. Also, Bright’s horse talks. Ritter moves the action between Bright’s flight, his ordeal in WWI, and his youth in simple, concrete, declarative prose. There are echoes here of Chris Adrian’s angel stories (The Children’s Hospital and A Better Angel), and perhaps something of a Cormac McCarthy-lite vibe. Here’s an excerpt from obscure author Stephen King’s review in the Times—
At its best, “Bright’s Passage” shines with a compressed lyricism that recalls Ray Bradbury in his prime. When Henry, his talking horse — a kind of holy Mr. Ed — and the Future King of Heaven leave the woods and enter a small town, Ritter writes: “It seemed a tidy place of dappled white houses and American flags. . . . Even the trees here seemed to have a kind of deep green and prepossessing prosperity that the trees of the forest could have no share in.” Recalling his mother’s death, Henry remembers “a windstorm that made the trees bow to one another like ballroom dancers.” More striking still are Henry’s memories of life in the trenches, some of which compare favorably to the prose in Mark Helprin’s “Soldier of the Great War”: “Artillery passed high above their heads in singsong trajectories that merged and lifted with one another into strange musical chords, like cats crossing pump organs.”
Bright’s Passage is new in hardback from Random House.
So we hit on the werewolves and angels, but what about those faeries? Honestly, that might have been a bit of a bait and switch, although David Liss’s new novel The Twelfth Enchantment does have faeries—but Romantic poets are slightly more prevalent in the book—only “Werewolves and Angels and Lord Byron and William Blake” sounds a bit clunky, doesn’t it? In any case, mea culpa. There are also Luddites and ghost dogs and alchemy and magic spells and all kinds of Gothic business going on in The Twelfth Enchantment, which gets a lot of mileage simply from its setting (the dawn of the Industrial Revolution), themes (the intersection of magick, alchemy, literature, and Gothic Romance), and characters (Byron, Blake, and Mary Crawford of Austen’s Mansfield Park). Our orphan heroine Lucy Derrick is in the clutches of her unsavory uncle who aims to marry her off until handsome, club-footed Lord Byron shows up at her house. He’s been hexed with a mystical curse and needs Lucy’s help; she soon finds herself snared in a web of dark intrigue, magic, and romance. The Twelfth Enchantment is a whimsical and lovingly crafted adventure story that will appeal to folks who dig literary mysteries (à la Jasper Fforde or pretty much any book that appropriates Jane Austen). The Twelfth Enchantment is new in hardback from Random House.