Imagine if the 9/11 terrorist strike was perpetrated by werewolves. Imagine if the struggle for a Palestinian homeland were for werewolves. Imagine if the AIDS epidemic were a disease called lobos, which turned you into a werewolf. Now, imagine the U.S. populated with a group of second class citizens called Lycans, who are controlled by government mandated drugs, laws and travel restrictions. Now imagine a radical group of these Lycan citizens rally around a charismatic leader, Balor, and plan a deadly revolt which may end the human race. Imagine all that, and you have the basis of Benjamin Percy’s new novel “RED MOON.” Percy, author of “The Wilding” has the writing chops to do this outlandish story justice, but if you take it one, beware of the commitment: it is 530 pages. Percy does justice to the world he’s created, where lycans live side by side with their human counterparts, but have always struggled under the restrictions placed on them. He paints a lycan history, where the group has gone through periods of revolt and resolution, periods reminiscent of other real-life struggles for dignity and equality in the world. It is a story chock full of social and political commentary under the thin veneer of a thriller. Enjoyable for the most part, I felt the author could have brought the story in under 500 pages, that there were a lot of excessive and repetitive details and scenes. Also, the characterizations were not realistic, but what the heck, if you are reading a story about werewolves, you had better be able to suspend disbelief. I would recommend it as a good book club read for its many social themes.
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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman won the John Newbery Medal for its contribution to American literature for children, yet the book opens with the description of a man with a very large, sharp knife systematically killing every member of a family as they sleep, save for the smallest toddler. I was surprised and a bit creeped out by this opening scene, especially since the book is billed as a middle grade novel. Fear not, dear reader, the story gets much better! The delightful, fanciful and fun story begins when the toddler escapes and wanders into an old cemetery. There, he is adopted by two childless ghosts, the Owens, and is put under the protection of a mysterious guardian, Silas, who is neither dead nor alive . The toddler is given the name Nobody–Bod for short–and the protection of the graveyard, as long as he never leaves its enclosures. The fun of the novel is in the tales of his adventures, being taught by ghosts who range from an ancient Roman general to a woman killed for witchcraft. Bod learns ghostly skills, such as fading, and dream walking, and the ability to open a ghoul gate…but he eventually longs to be with other people like him, people who are alive. But Bod has been warned by his guardian that the man who killed his family is still out there, and still looking for him. This tale of good versus evil with a clever twist of characters (a good vampire and werewolf) never fails to amuse and entertain. The author, Neil Gaiman, is a master of fantasy and imagination–think J.K. Rowling meets Tim Burton. The suspense and fun never flags as we watch Bod grow up amongst his most unusual companions, and tackle the greatest challenge of his life. The graveyard story was written for kids, but I enjoyed every minute of it. For an extra treat, listen to the book on tape. When I saw that it was recorded by the author, I thought, “Uh-oh” as often times authors are not the best readers of their own works, but in this case Gaiman is perfect. He has a voice not unlike Alan Rickman (think Snape) and voices the characters with feeling and style.