Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon is an interesting book with a fascinating and engaging premise that unfortunately never quite lives up to its promise. In Red Moon, humanity lives side-by-side with werewolves (this is a scientific form of lycanthropy; one produced by prions). The werewolves of Red Moon’s America are monitored and regulated via a change suppressing drug. The U.S. is in the midst of occupying a sovereign werewolf nation in order to maintain Uranium mining operations. There is a subset of werewolves who don’t like this blatant if socially accepted oppression and who wish to free themselves from the yoke of human oppression by any means necessary.
Right off the bat you’ll probably note that there are several political and social issues here that bear resemblance to past and current events in American history. Percy does a pretty good job taking an even stance with regards to this portraying the werewolf “activists” and American government in equally negative lights. There is some rather pointed commentary here on the notion of cults of personality seen here in the form of the charismatic, if not exactly, genuine person of the Washington state Governor Chase Williams.
Percy’s focus seems to be on the individual everyman and everywoman and how their lives are influenced by the choices of and struggles between the United States and the Werewolf activists. There are moments in the novel where this examination work’s extremely well. The violent act of terrorism seen in the opening chapters of the novel and the ripples it sends throughout Patrick’s life is well done and consistently engaging. The treatment of werewolves in the novel combines similarities to the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, the treatment of the Japanese during the second World War, and the current perception towards Muslims in the United States today. Again this amalgam should make for some fascinating reading but I was left feeling that nothing concrete was ever really said about these aspects.
What at first felt like a novel that was going to chart the changes in these young people’s lives quickly shifts away from this focus after the roughly the first third of the novel. The final half of the novel felt lost and and unfocused as both Claire and Patrick grow ever more entwined in the sweeping global changes that the sudden outbreak of violence has set in motion. The disconnect between the chapters featuring Claire and Patrick versus those featuring Chase becomes readily apparent and it sort of felt like I was reading two novels. Mirriam, Claire’s aunt who is introduced early in the novels gets perhaps the shortest straw of all and her only purpose seems to be as the vessel through which the reader is introduced to motley crew of werewolf terrorists. Her role in the novel’s latter chapters seems solely designed to prove how “evil” they are and to reveal the full nature of their terrorist plot.
By and large I enjoyed my time with Red Moon. While it never quite lives up to the promise of its opening chapters it consistently remains an engaging read. Despite the presence of werewolves in the novel there is no real aspect of the supernatural in Red Moon. Werewolves are compltely debunked of the course of the novel as products of mutation a fact that definitely took a bit of the magic (literally and figuratively) out of it for me. There is a fair amount of heavy handed political commentary in Red Moon so if that isn’t something you’re willing to accept this isn’t the novel for you. Truth be told I can’t throw my full recommendation behind this one.