Anne Rice’s vampire stories never held an interest for me, but a story about a wolf was another matter; I’ve always had an affinity for the wolf. I started Wolf Gift late at night, thinking a few chapters would displace thoughts of Mallon’s Watergate, my latest read, and all the “what if’s” going around in my head. I did not expect to read through the night, hypnotized with Rice’s language and story-telling.
Rice immediately fulfills the expectation of a “man wolf” in the first pages, and adds a Gothic mansion and a forest of preserved California redwoods to the set where Reuben, a twenty-three year old newspaper reporter on assignment, meets his fate. The transformation is gradual as Reuben’s hearing and vision become acute, and his family notices a healthier glow about him as he recovers from a near fatal attack – until one night, a distress call triggers his final change to superhuman wolf savior.
Mixing in ancient cuneiform tablets and a kidnapping of a bus full of children, Rice elevates the suspense. Reuben reverts back to human form at dawn, but his vigilante night disguise seems to be taking over earlier and earlier, until he discovers how to control his morphisms. Rice cannot resist imbuing the man wolf with vacillating emotions as he struggles with good and evil. She even has Reuben going to confession to his brother, a priest.
The story yields to the fantastic science fiction of werewolves, but this time with no full moons or silver bullets and no memory loss the day after. Lots of blood, gore and horror, and some steamy sex add to the mix as the story hits its stride – not a tale for the queasy or weak-hearted. After an exciting climax with the good guys winning, Rice falls into a long uninspiring monologue on abstract theology, philosophy, and ethics – her justification for the story, and the quiet balm that finally put me to sleep.
The Wolf Gift is a mix of suspenseful adventure and grueling horror, and for me, a good primer to the world of Anne Rice. She’s promising zombies for her next book.