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Fans of Max Brooks's zombies (World War Z) and Justin Cronin's vampires (The Passage) will enjoy the dramatic breadth of Percy's (The Wilding) tale of werewolves, here called lycans. A prion is the cause of the infection that leads to lycanthropy, and Percy includes public health and minority rights in his depiction of a society that has been trying to deal with the infected for centuries. A lycan rights group launches a terrorist attack on an airliner that shocks the nation, and the main characters deal with the aftereffects. Claire is a lycan who lives an uneventful suburban life with her parents when a post-attack government raid sends her on the run. The lone passenger who survived the attack is Patrick, whose father's National Guard unit has just shipped out as part of the U.S. peacekeeping mission in the werewolf homeland (which happens to be rich in uranium). As the lives of these two young people connect, questions about what it means to be human and how and whether modern society can survive are asked and answered. VERDICT This literary thriller by an award-winning young writer will excite fans of modern horror who enjoy a large canvas and a history to go with their bloody action.-Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Reviewed by Stefan Dziemianowicz. Benjamin Percy's extraordinary new supernatural thriller is a blend of alternate history and weird fiction that holds a mirror up to contemporary America to reflect its fears and biases.The novel opens with scenes that will resonate powerfully for anyone attuned to global events of the past decade: a father saying goodbye to his son before the father, a military reservist, deploys to a remote country where a fanatical sect holds sway, and an engineered terrorist attack that brings three jetliners down on American soil in a single day. In both instances, the antagonists are not jihadists, but lycans: lupine shapeshifters who have lived among regular humans since prehistoric times, and who in 21st-century America are a stigmatized subclass, forced to suppress their bestial nature pharmacologically. In quick succession, Percy introduces the characters who are the major players in his novel's drama: teenager Patrick Gamble, the sole survivor of the airplane attacks; Claire Forrester, a teenage lycan on the run from government agents who killed her parents; Chase Williams, the opportunistic governor of Oregon (where most of the tale is set) who hopes to exploit fears engendered by the terrorist attack in his bid for the presidency; and Miriam, Claire's aunt, who has defected from the lycan resistance movement (headed by her husband), which takes credit for the terrorist attacks. Patrick briefly falls in with a group of scary antilycan skinheads who call themselves "the Americans" before befriending Claire. Patrick's father becomes a victim in the military occupation of the Lupine Republic, which is situated between Russia and Finland but is seemingly modeled on Iraq and Afghanistan. Chase becomes infected with the lobos prion that causes lycanthropy, and struggles to hide this from the public until a vaccine can be perfected. And the resistance, responding to increasingly inflammatory antilycan laws, plots ever more outrageous terrorist acts that escalate to an explosive denouement. Percy lends his novel's events credibility by working out a convincing pathology and epidemiology for the lobos prion, and situating the lycan struggle at the center of historical moments that echo 20th-century eugenics experiments, the civil rights movement, the '60s Days of Rage, and the current "war on terror," whose rhetoric he adapts brilliantly to his story's purposes. His precision-crafted prose conveys an astonishing amount of detail in as few words as necessary, as in this description of Claire's lupine transformation: "Her bones stretch and bend and pop, and she yowls in pain, as if she is giving birth, one body coming out of another." The confidence and assuredness with which Percy tells his story compel him to take some risks that pay off in a shocker of a finale that follows through audaciously on the possibilities of his tale's premise. By tapping the zeitgeist of the contemporary sociopolitical climate and distilling it into a potent myth concerned with the tyranny of the majority and the demonization of the Other, he has written an ambitious, epic novel that deserves to reach a larger readership beyond genre audiences. Stefan Dziemianowicz is co-editor of Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Doing for werewolves what Justin Cronin's The Passage (2010) did for vampires, this literary horror novel is set in an alternate version of the present day. Everything is pretty much the same, except for one teensy difference: werewolves or lycans, as Percy calls them aren't the stuff of mythology. They're real, and they've existed for centuries: ordinary men and women afflicted with an unusual (and seemingly incurable) disease, lobos, which turns them into another sort of life-form altogether. Lycans and humans have established an uneasy peace, but, as the book opens, lycan terrorists seem determined to spark a bloody war. Percy focuses on a trio of engaging and beautifully drawn characters: Patrick, a boy who survives one of the terrorist attacks; Claire, a girl whose family is murdered for reasons she doesn't clearly understand; and Chase, a governor whose aggressively anti-lycan views are challenged in a tragically ironic way. Parallels to the U.S. in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are clear and deliberate, but it's the way the author, following in the footsteps of such writers as Glen Duncan (in The Last Werewolf, 2011), humanizes the werewolf, turning him from snarling beast into a creature for whom we feel compassion and affection, that makes the book such a splendid read. Although the novel tells a self-contained story, there is plenty of room for a sequel, which would be most welcome.--Pitt, David Copyright 2010 Booklist