Just finished reading Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift
. I've never been a big
Rice fan, although I've read some of her stand-alones, Servant of the Bones
and Cry to Heaven
, the latter of which is still one of my favourite fiction books ever because it helped me discover opera. I don't read much horror these days, but as a teenager I did. I read mainly classic horror: Stoker, Poe, Lovecraft, LeFanu, with a few modern writers like Poppy Z. Brite thrown in for good measure. I never enjoyed Stephen King or Clive Barker although I tried, and these days the "horror" that most bookshops stock is really paranormal romance, and I have zero interest in reading romance fiction, paranormal or not.
But I discovered that there's two types of horror that I like. Type one is the "chiller" type, fast moving, keeping you on the edge of your seat, compelling horror. Type two is slow moving, atmospheric, more beautiful and sad than horrifying. Most of my preferred horror fiction tends into one of the two types, although it has elements of both.
This one is mostly the second type, it's more philosophical, although it is still enough of a page-turner that I read it in two days. When my sister saw me reading The Wolf Gift
she dismissed it as being like all the paranormal romance fiction out there these days, and the cover doesn't help. But of course it's not at all; it's true horror fiction with all the challenges and complexities the genre raises.( Cut for spoilers )
Of the "big three" horror creatures - vampires, werewolves, and zombies - my favourites are still werewolves and other shape-shifter stories (followed by ghosts, which are less popularly written about). In European folklore it was mostly wolves that threatened people, and that people turned into. In Russia it was bears. In parts of Africa it was hyenas and lions. In South America, jaguars. It was always the untamed and untameable in our stories that humans became when they lost their humanity. I find that combination of fear, nature, and human history fascinating.
I would label this book "fluffy horror", or maybe "horror for non-horror fans"... but I like "fluffy horror" better. :p Yes, it's still horror so of course there's the corresponding level of violence and sex and disturbing themes, but then, my bar for horror is extremely high, so that colours my interpretation and you may disagree vehemently. But this book is what I would consider fluffy by comparison to others in the genre. I've read similar levels of violence in general fantasy fiction, and it's still confined to the action scenes. The sex is mostly "off screen" and completely consensual. There's no torture, cold blood, or extended dread, and even the violence isn't lovingly dwelt on. It's just part of the way things happen. Like nature.
The reason werewolves are considered horror is because they confront us with what we're all capable of and because we all fear a loss of control. They tell us that wildness exists in everyone, and that it doesn't take an animal to be truly cruel: that
is all human.
I found The Wolf Gift
very enjoyable actually. I thought I would enjoy it when I bought it, just because I do like reading about werewolves, but I probably enjoyed it more than I thought I would.