Now, before we start the review I'd like to mention the Bulwer-Lytton contest. The Bulwer-Lytton is a contest for bad first sentences, but the sentence it is named after isn't purposefully terrible. It's just long, mononotonous, and it kind of loses its own point about halfway through. Why do I bring this up?
THE RAIN STARTED before Reuben ever got home, and by the time he locked himself in his room, it was coming down hard in that dreary windless way it so often did in Northern California, slowly, relentlessly drenching everything, and quenching the light of the dying sun, the moon, and the stars completely.One. Sentence. The first one in chapter seven.
Also, and this is a completely regional thing, but South Texas gets rain about once a semester. And that is not a typo. You can count on one good rainstorm per semester of school. Do not bitch to me about rain. I will gladly trade you the rain for the red flag warnings, the heat, and the water rationing.
Ruben sits down and bitches about the rain. He thinks "What does rain matter to me, now that I 'm a wonderful werewolf?" and then daydreams about his new mansion.
He's a prick, in other words.
Meanwhile we get a paragraph dedicated to everybody who cares about Ruben, most of whom we haven't met yet. This includes his family's housekeeper, named Rosy, who was away on her "yearly trip to Mexico".
She calls the werewolf "Loup garou", so I will now assume that Rosy is french. If she were hispanic, as that "yearly trip to Mexico" implies, she would use something like (according to my quick google-fu for "spanish word for werewolf") hombre lobo, or, you know, WEREWOLF. Because she speaks ENGLISH, and just because one comes from a foreign country doesn't mean you're going to magically forget what English words are whenever your author needs to remind her audience you're from a different ethnicity than the target audience.
And then we find out that all these people are here for a meeting to talk about Ruben behind Ruben's back, because, you know, communicating with your family is bad!
And then Ruben researches werewolves...by reading and watching werewolf movies like Ginger Snaps and something involving Jack Nicholson.
And then treating them as scholarly fact.
I am not exaggerating in the slightest.
This was fiction, of course, but it presented the phase he was in as transformative and not final. Only in the early stages were some werewolves anthropoid. By the end of Wolf, Jack Nicholson had been a full-blown four-footed animal of the forest. By the end of Ginger Snaps, the unfortunate girl wolf had become a great hideous and repulsive porcine demon.
If we ask nicely will Anne put the thesaurus down? Also, I have watched Ginger Snaps, and it was boring as hell for most of it, interesting for the last ten minutes and then "FUCK YOU MOVIE" for the last thirty seconds. (Seriously. Everybody except the little sister dies horribly. Why do horror movies have the continual need to give their audience the finger?) I would describe the older sister's wolf form as a lot of things, and porcine would not be one of them. It didn't look much like a wolf, but it looked even less like a pig.
He decides to blow off the movies, except for the part where lycanthropy is refered to as a "gift". Because it makes him feel so good and that...yeah, I got nothing.
This paragraph happens:
Is that so wrong, to want to think of myself as Man Wolf? Again, he tried to muster some compassion for the rapist he’d killed. But he could not.On the one hand, rapists are bad people. On the other hand, it's using the fact that someone is bad to justify the main hero ripping the fucker's head off and then not feeling guilty for it.
Well, sociopath is a better label than "prick".
And then Ruben decides to go look up that book referenced in the previous chapter, The Man Wolf and Other Tales, and he starts by going directly to Amazon.com--that's how Anne writes it, not me--and tries to buy one of the old reprints. Good luck. Then he decides to find it for free online. Now, remember kiddies, I found the thing on Project Gutenburg on the second page of the search results for "man-wolf", but apparently Anne can't replicate search results twice in a row, because Ruben winds up going to random horror websites to read fictional stories about werewolves.
And it turns out that Marchant's last name, Nideck, is in the story.
Like we couldn't see that one coming a mile off, given Ruben's obsession with her uncle's papers.
So let me get this straight. Anne Rice expects me to believe that the victim of a random werewolf attack managed to find all the clues he needs via a google search and Project Gutenburg. That Marchant's uncle wouldn't be smart enough to change his last name. That Ruben would be this fucking stupid. The whole "Kid researches their paranormal affliction via movies" thing is funny when it is being played for laughs. This is not being played for laughs.
This is stupid.
And THEN Ruben theorizes that the family took the name Nideck from the story to...uh...have a name tied to werewolves?
Yeah. Guys, this is like somebody deciding to name themselves after the fucked up town in Taker because they turn into monster-things and they want somebody to be able to research their name and realize that they turn into monster-things...because cake. That's right. Cake. Realize someone turns into monster things and there is cake.
Well, then, YOU come up with a better explanation.
Ah, he had to make an exhaustive search of all werewolf literature. And at once he set about ordering books specifically on werewolf fiction, legends, and poetry, including anthologies and studies, to be delivered overnight.
One: WE ARE FINALLY USING THE WORD WEREWOLF. THANK YOU.
Two: This is what we call a nervous breakdown. How's this for a thought, Rubes? GO TELL YOUR FAMILY WHAT IS HAPPENING. Show them your selfies. That ought to be good for a couple laughs. They'll tie you to a bed for 24 hours, watch you go hairy, spend the night driving around trying to keep up with you while you go Superwolf on the neighborhood, and then spend the rest of the book trying to save your ass from your furry self.
Then Ruben feels warm and is probably transforming...and then Anne Rice stops writing this story and talks directly to God.
God, what is it like to be You and hear all those people all the time everywhere, begging, imploring, calling out for anything and anyone?
Alrighty then. Moving on.
Ruben starts hearing things, first a rumbling that makes him go to a window, and then a voice chanting "burn him, burn him." So the breakdown is now a little more obvious. He turns into a werewolf and then it becomes clear that he's hearing a crime go down somewhere in the city. Off he goes, without any selfies this time, to rescue some unknown person from unknown things in an unknown way.
Also, note: RUBEN HAS NO REASON TO BECOME SUPERWOLF. Clark Kent became Superman because he was a good guy, he was an alien who had difficulty relating to humanity (TELL ME I AM WRONG) because he was interested in doing good and making a difference, and because he was bored out of his mind (AGAIN. TELL ME I AM WRONG). Spiderman is a better superhero because Spiderman became Spidey out of guilt, and while most of us would have trouble understanding "I want to do good because Good is Right" all of us understand "I want to do good because I fucked up one time and it killed my surrogate father, and I owe him."
Ruben is not a good person. How do we know this? Because Ruben cheated on his girlfriend within three hours of meeting a hot older woman, and decided that his girlfriend can just deal with it because she did it to him first. The character switch between Human!Ruben and Wolf!Ruben is so profound it is creepy. Human!Ruben spends all his time and I do mean all his time thinking about his awesome wolf-self, his awesome house, or how much his family just doesn't understaaaaaaaaaaaaand. Meanwhile there's a busload of kids missing and Ruben would rather cover his own nighttime adventures than try to figure out where the fuck they went, and he'd have a good chance at doing that given that he's cracked criminal rings before. Wolf!Ruben, on the other hand, hears bad go down and he's out the window.
This is not heroic. It's creepy as fuck. Turning into a wolf would be awesome IF I KEPT MY BRAIN, or most of my brain, INTACT. Having another personality take over is not cool. Having another personality as diametrically different from my core as Wolf!Ruben is from Human!Ruben take over every night would make me want to lock myself in a bank vault every night, fur or no fur.
Anyway, to make the next scene short, Ruben finds people trying to burn a man alive, Ruben kills them, and then takes the poor old man home. There is, however, a notable part where Ruben considers chewing one man's heart out, and then thinks,
But no, not the teeth, not the teeth that could give the Wolf Gift, no, he could not risk that.
And I now have NOT TEETH! NOT THE TEETH! Running through my head on permanent repeat.
Also: I think if Ruben had ripped the guy's heart out, the guy turning into a werewolf would be the last of their worries.
Then Ruben finds an old woman whose caretaker is feeding her feces, and basically repeats the same act, this time with a reprehensible woman. Because killing without warning or trial is perfectly justified when your victims are horrible people.
The old woman panicks and start saying Hail Marys, so Ruben says them with her. And if I didn't want to throw Ruben through several buildings I'd say that scene was kind of a nice touch--AND ALSO RIPPED DIRECTLY OUT OF SPIDERMAN--but a nice touch.
Ruben calls the cops, trashes the old woman's house, discovers her husband also tied down to a bed, and then goes home and passes out in his own bed.
Oh, and he got shot in the process, but given that it healed immediately that's kind of a non-event.
End of chapter.
So far this book has given me step-by-step accounts of Anne Rice's research process, about four different super-hero rip-offs, including one that makes me wonder if Anne didn't find the first Toby McGuire Spiderman movie on a late night and fall asleep in front of it, a protagonist with a mild case of DID, and the image of a werewolf taking selfies.
It is the gift that keeps on giving. I think I'm falling in love with it.