In Benjamin Percy's new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.
Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.
Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
About Benjamin Percy
Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, The Dead Lands (forthcoming from Grand Central/Hachette in 2015), Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men's Journal, Outside, the Wall Street Journal, Tin House, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, and the Paris Review. He also writes screenplays and comics. His honors include an NEA fellowship, the Whiting Writer's Award, the Plimpton Prize, the Pushcart Prize and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics. He is the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College and teaches at the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.
When government agents kick down Claire Forrester's front door and murder her parents, Claire realizes just how different she is. Patrick Gamble was nothing special until the day he got on a plane and hours later stepped off it, the only passenger left alive, a hero. Chase Williams has sworn to protect the people of the United States from the menace in their midst, but he is becoming the very thing he has promised to destroy. So far, the threat has been controlled by laws and violence and drugs. But the night of the red moon is coming, when an unrecognizable world will emerge...and the battle for humanity will begin.
‘Plagues don’t just kill people – and that’s what lobos is, a plague – they kill humanity.’
Red Moon deals with an alternate world history, one where lycans are real and all are aware of their existence. The story is told from several different points-of-view and spans several years. At its core, Red Moon is about xenophobia, racial discrimination and acts of terrorism, a subject that can be applied to today’s world even when you remove the lycan factor. It touches on several genres, but ends up ultimately being a blend of horror and dystopian.
With the multiple story lines, various points of view and length of elapsed time from the first to final page, Red Moon seemed like an attempt to write the lycan/werewolf version of ‘The Twelve’; key word attempt. The writing ended up being excessively descriptive and lacked a flow which left it feeling forced, like the author was attempting to incorporate poetry but resulted in an overall clunky feel. For example:
“He feels the snow of the Republic weighing him down and he feels the darkness of the grave pressing around the fire and infecting his vision so that there seems to be no separation between the living and the dead, a child born with a mud wasp’s nest for a heart and its eyes already pocketed with dust, ready to be clapped into a box and dropped down a hole.”
The strange way things were described: “She strikes a match and drops it on the burner and a blue flare the size of a child foomps to life[…]” “She is sitting on a rock the size of a buffalo skull […]” “He imagines what his blood would taste like. Like cherry cough syrup.”
Then the occasional line(s) that caused some eye-rolling: ‘He hears a dripping and looks down to see the blood pooling from the open door. The blood of Trevor, uncorked by a bullet. It melts the snow into a red slushy pattern that reminds him of those Rorschach inkblot tests. What does he see? The fate that awaits him if he does not act.’
and ‘He consults his GPS one more time before finding the center and parking his bike on the wrong side of the street in front of a fire hydrant. Sometimes it feels good to be so wrong.’
And these lines just irritated me: ‘A black man named Jessie with half his teeth missing.’ ‘The black man, Jessie, says, “Why are you telling him that?”‘ ‘The black man’s chest is rising and falling with the rhythms of sleep.’
The first sentence is the initial introduction of Jessie and describing him as such isn’t an issue. It’s the subsequent sentences that irritated me. Simply calling him Jessie would’ve been perfectly fine.
I will give Percy major credit, his evident research worked magnificently in bringing this alternate world to life and making the lycans existence all the more real. ‘All known prion diseases affect the brain and neural tissue, creating vasuoles in the nerve fibers that eventually lesion and degenerate into spongiform encephalopathy.’
Detailed scientific explanations are given throughout the story and while they weren’t always easy to interpret (and caused extensive Google searching) it was refreshing to see some legitimate research being put into the world-building.
The ending is not tied up nicely with a pretty little bow, but I actually preferred the open to interpretation ending and I don’t usually. Despite this, I still believe Red Moon to be a standalone novel. In my opinion the author was trying to convey the situation as one that doesn’t ever truly end, that it’s an ongoing problem and doesn’t have an easy solution. I think giving it the ‘perfect ending’ would have been far too unrealistic. Setting aside my issue with the excessive descriptive writing style, I still really enjoyed the physics of the story. Benjamin Percy is definitely an author with a talent for storytelling.
Recommended for fans of The Passage by Justin Cronin and The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (although both are vampire novels) and readers looking for a literary story with paranormal elements.