Written by: Bruce Priddy
We create our monsters. This is not a new idea in fiction, dating back at least two-hundred-years to Shelley’s ambitious scientist and what he wrought. Nor is it is a concept confined to literature, but that one we live with in the long shadow of 9/11. Like the enemies of Rome using her own roads to destroy the empire, hellspawn have followed us home on roads we built with the best and worst of intentions.
This is the concept behind Benjamin Percy’s socio-political horror novel Red Moon. The book is not a subtle allegory for the never-ending War on Terror, but an outright retelling that replaces radical Islamists with werewolves. The wolfman is a perfect stand-in for our modern fear of sleeper-cell terrorism. They look like us, work in the cubicle down the aisle, and share our fences. We have no idea of what lies within. Until.
After supporting the Lycan Republic and “freedom fighters” in a war against Soviet aggression during the 1980s, the United States finds itself in an asymmetric war with these same Lycans (the werewolves of Red Moon, recalling the bad taste of the Underworld films) abroad and at home. For years, the US has occupied the Lycan Republic in the name of security, that it is rich in uranium is inconsequential, of course. At home, the Lycan minority faces social discrimination and legal oppression. Most werewolves are willing to abide this in exchange for peaceful lives. And those who are not so willing bring down three airliners as the novel opens.
But Red Moon is not so much about the War on Terror as it is about those caught in it, everyone is a combatant. You’ve seen these characters before. Much ado was made about yet another so-called “literary author” making a run at a genre tale, following in the footsteps of Glen Duncan, Colson Whitehead and Justin Cronin. If there is anything literary authors do well it is character. Such is not the case in Red Moon. Instead of giving up living, breathing characters, Percy gives us clichés, adding nothing to these tired tropes. Not long after meeting the characters we already know their fates. Knowing their fates means we know the outcome of the war. This makes reading through the five-hundred-plus pages a Herculean task to get through.
While the language of Red Moon is beautiful and poetic, it is not enough to carry a book of its size. It is almost as if Percy was so concentrated on lyrical prose that he forgot to work on more substantive things. Beautiful language for the sake of beautiful language may work for a literary novel but does not make for a well-written genre-novel. The prose cannot hide the weak characters nor the absolute nonsense of the Lycan terrorists’ endgame.
Red Moon sounds like a brilliant idea for a novel. Monsters representing our modern fears makes for the best horror, as I’ve often stated in my reviews. However, Red Moon fails in portraying the big picture of the War on Terror and the small picture of the lives caught up in it. If there are new insights to be found in this unending conflict, Percy is not looking for them. Given the opportunity to say something dangerous or subversive, Percy shies away. The great socio-political horror novel is waiting to be written. But Red Moon is not it.
You can give Red Moon a try right here.