Throwback Book Review: Anne Rice’s “The Wolf Gift”

I originally wrote this review for http://www.DarkMedia.com a few years ago.  I thought it would be fun to share it here on my blog as well. 🙂

The Wolf Gift

Genre: Adult, Fiction

Publisher: Alfred A. Knoph

Publication Date: February 14, 2012

Author: Anne Rice

Overall Review: 5/5-Excellent

Review by: Sarabeth Pollock


A Return….

In 1994 I stumbled across a mass market copy of Interview with the Vampire in a country store during a family vacation.  Though I was fourteen, I immediately fell in love with the lush prose and the vivid characters that came to life in the novel.  After the first few pages I was transported into a world where vampires came to life; the story was as consuming as the humidity of a hot New Orleans evening—which is to say inescapable.  I have been an Anne Rice fan ever since, becoming enmeshed with the stories of vampires, witches, ghosts, and even mummies.

2005 saw Rice’s departure from the supernatural with the publication of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  Year later, through the miracle of Twitter (ironically, given the prevalence of social media in The Wolf Gift), I discovered that Anne Rice was returning to the world of the supernatural with a new book about werewolves, called The Wolf Gift.

I am pleased to tell you that Anne Rice has returned to the world of the supernatural with a thrilling tour de force!


The Story….

Reuben Golding is a youthful reporter for the San Francisco Observer, on assignment to write about an enchanting mansion situated on a cliff in Mendocino.  We meet the alluring owner of the house, Marchent Nideck, who looks to sell the house after the estate of her great uncle Felix Nideck has been settled.  Felix Nideck has at last been declared dead after his mysterious disappearance years earlier, and Marchent is eager to sell the house and return to her life abroad.  She hopes that Reuben’s article in the Observer can spark interest in the house and quickly attract a buyer.

Reuben is the youngest son born to a surgeon mother and college professor father.  His older brother is a priest and his girlfriend is a high-power, high-energy district attorney.  They all have nicknames for him that continually remind him of his youth: he is “Sunshine Boy” to his girlfriend and “Little Boy” to his brother Jim.  Reuben is an aspiring writer, and a dreamer, who would be content to buy the house, which he refers to as Nideck Point, even though he knows that his family (with exception of his father) would never approve of such a frivolous purchase.   

It isn’t long before Reuben convinces himself that he must buy Nideck Point, for he has fallen hopelessly in love with the house, and, unexpectedly, he has fallen in love with Marchent.   He follows Marchent like the proverbial kid in a candy store as she takes him from room to room, sharing her late great-uncle’s treasures with Reuben.  In the library they come across a massive portrait of six men hanging above the mantel.  They are dressed in safari khaki and they are in a jungle and they have interesting names like Margon and Sergei and Frank Vandover.  Margon, also known and Margon the Godless, was Felix Nideck’s closest friend as well as his mentor, and though these men were all incredibly close, Marchent has been unable to reach them after her great-uncle’s disappearance.

It isn’t long before the tranquility of Nideck Point is shattered in the middle of the night by an attack, at first at the hands of mortal men with jealousy and revenge on their minds, and then by…something else.  It is at that point that Reuben receives the Wolf Gift.


My Thoughts….

The most compelling aspect of this novel is that the story is oddly plausible.  Whereas Interview with the Vampire vacillated between past and present, The Wolf Gift is firmly rooted in the present, with all of the technology and media and ethical dilemmas that come with life in 2012.  Reuben, like most twenty-three year olds in the twenty-first century, is in love with his iPhone.  He uses it to chronicle his transformation from man to wolf.  Once reports of the mysterious “Man Wolf” start to circulate, people all over the world flock to social media sites to create fan pages and dedicate songs on You Tube to him.  Reuben uses his newfound powers and abilities to help people in need, and though one can raise scores of ethical issues about his methods, Reuben clearly acts with good intentions.  The Man Wolf, rather than be feared by the media-hungry public, becomes something of a hero to scores of people who believe that he is trying to do good in a world where it is easy to lose hope.

Another interesting aspect of the story is that Reuben shares his lupine dilemma with other people.  He confesses his secret to his brother Jim, and he confides in Laura, the woman who accepts both his human and wolfish selves with love and compassion.  This is a departure from other Anne Rice novels, where characters went to great lengths to conceal their true nature from the mortals around them.  (ASIDE:  Lestat’s quest to become a rock star in the 1980s could be interpreted as an attempt to reveal his true vampiric nature to ultimately allow him to live in the open, but even he conceded that mortals didn’t really believe he was a vampire.)   

One of the most refreshing aspects of Reuben Golding’s character is that he doesn’t hate himself or the creature he has become.  Once he understands the Wolf Gift, he cherishes it.  He embraces it and comes to see the wolf as part of his identity.  As an intellectual young man raised in a family that taught him to seek knowledge and ask questions, Reuben wants to understand what he has become so that he can use the gift to its full potential.  Of course he makes some mistakes along the way, but these mistakes make Reuben’s character all the more real, for he is a man stumbling through this transformation alone.

I enjoyed how Rice allows the reader to experience Reuben’s transformation with him.  Her imagery makes it easy to imagine what it must feel like to shed one’s human form and become a Man Wolf.  The novel moves quickly through his discoveries and his adventures as a werewolf, but it does get bogged down with mythology toward the end as the story races to its conclusion.  I’m not sure that this is detrimental to the story, however, as the mythology is essential in establishing and understanding the new world of werewolves, or Morphenkinder, that has been created.  Avid Anne Rice fans are well-versed in the history of her vampires and witches after eighteen books, so it is fair to say that this novel serves as an origin story and couldn’t be told without the mythology.

Anne Rice fans new and old will enjoy The Wolf Gift, and given the increasingly energized interest in werewolves thanks to shows like SyFy’s Being Human and films in The Twilight Saga, new readers will appreciate a fresh and modern take on werewolves.

Ready for The Walking Dead’s Return

I’m really glad I never read The Walking Dead graphic novels.  It’s not like I don’t have access–my brother in law has them all.  For once, it’s nice not having any insight.  In fact, my mom and I started watching TWD at the same time.  It was right before Season 2 was about to premiere, and we caught the tail-end of a TWD marathon and thought it looked interesting.  Getting hooked on TWD was a complete accident, and I’m glad it happened that way.

I like the idea of a spinoff version of TWD with random people with no backgrounds.  It would be nice to be able to see what’s going on elsewhere.

For the first time I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the speculation and sneak peeks on the new episodes.  It’s not that I don’t care.  This time I want to be surprised.  I recap the show for Dark Media Online, and it’s fun when I don’t know what’s coming.

And right now TWD is exactly what I want to watch.  I’m not in enough of a lighthearted mood for Doctor Who, and American Horror Story Coven was creepy but not as edge-of-your-seat as TWD is.  True Blood is just pure fun and Dracula is much more erudite.  (I’ve named these shows because I recap them, so they’re all very near and dear to my heart)  The fact is, I’m in the mood for The Walking Dead. 

I’m glad TWD is back! 

San Diego Comic Con is Coming!

Two weeks from now I’ll be saying goodbye to the office for a few days.  I’ll get my backpack ready, pick out my comfiest shoes, and get ready to wait in huge lines for knick-knacks that seem really important in the moment, but lose their luster when you get home and try to figure out what you were thinking when you grabbed it.

Yes, Comic Con is coming.

The banners are already lining Harbor Drive.  Thank goodness I live in San Diego.  I don’t want to think about what it would be like to have to find a hotel room.  I shudder to think about all of the traffic that’s coming our way.  But that’s all part of the FUN!

If only the Comic-Con people would RELEASE THE SCHEDULE!!  I need it.  I NEED IT NOW!

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to: True Blood.  Doctor Who.  Deborah Harkness’s new book, Shadow of Night. Being Human (SyFy and BBC).  Fringe.  American Horror Story.  The Walking Dead.  Dark Knight Rises.

There is more, of course.  So much depends on what I can actually get to.  You have to cruise the con floor in the morning, of course, and then get to panels.

I will be donating blood at some point.  I have done it for several years now, and  have a nice collection of special-release True Blood shirts as a result.

I’m also not afraid to spend the night in a line to get into a panel.  Once the schedule is posted, I’ll let you know when I’m camping out.

I’ll be covering Comic Con for www.DarkMedia.com, and you can follow my Tweets to see what I’m doing.  Right now I’m in the thick of planning.

And I’m taking vitamins.  Iron so I can donate blood, and a multivitamin so I don’t get sick.  Take it from me, everyone.  bring your hand sanitizer and your vitamins and your Emergen-C!

What are your Comic Con plans??

Quickfire Writing

I’m not opposed to technology.  Though I’m 31, I actually did own a typewriter.  Two typewriters, actually.  One was my Fisher Price typewriter from when I was three years old, and later while in junior high school I owned a Brother electric typewriter because my well-meaning family didn’t realize that computers were the way of the future. 

I have recently started writing for www.DarkMedia.com.  I have done everything from reviewing books and graphic novels to recapping television shows like Fringe and True BloodFringe was much easier, because I set out to summaraize the first season and so I watched the episodes on DVD.  True Blood has been more challenging, because I watch the show live and take notes, and then I type up my notes into something more coherent.  My goal is to have the recap posted online by 10pm Pacific Time, which means I have a three-hour window to write and submit my recap.

This past Sunday I sat in Starbucks with my trusty notebook (the cover is red, of course, because it is True Blood, after all) and my even-trustier netbook.  After ordering a black iced tea, unsweetened, and a chocolate chip cookie to make up for the lack of sweetener, I started my attack on the keys.

What amazed me was how fast I could write under the circumstances.  When I’m working on my novel, my mind tends to wander.  When I’m recapping a show, my mind stays on task and my fingers fly over the keys.  After two hours, I had close to 3400 words that came from 8 pages of written notes.

Recapping probably isn’t for everyone.  However, I have noticed that it has changed the way I watch television in that my mind is constantly thinking about how I would summarize a scene.  I feel much more connected to the show.  I have a feeling that it will help me in other areas of my life…even though I don’t know what they might be just yet.

But the second grader deep inside me is smiling, thinking fondly of the 5-minute creative writing exercises we did in class.  Perhaps I was born to be a recapper. 🙂


Letter to a Vampire

I know, it has been forever since I’ve posted.  But I promise to do better.  Today I have an interesting story to share.

Today I wrote a letter to a vampire.

He’s not a real vampire, mind you, but he’s an actor at Lamb’s Players Theatre in San Diego.  When I was 7, my grandfather took me to see Dracula at the old Lamb’s Players Theatre.  This was back when it was housed in National City, in a renovated church.  The stage was in the shape of a square and the actors entered from the four corners.  We had aisle seats.

In between acts, while the lights were out, my grandfather nudged me and pointed to my right.  There, a mere six inches from my seat, was Dracula.  He was at least two hundred feet tall and his white face glowed in the dark.  That was all I remember from the first half of the play, as I spent the rest of the act with my face buried in my grandfather’s shirt.

This was 25 years ago, and the memory is as fresh today as it was then.  We ended up staying through the whole play, and even though I had nightmares for months about vampires, I realize now that this was a formative moment in my life.  Now I write about vampires and other supernatural creatures (when the sun has set and my day job is set aside for the night) and I truly believe that this experience moulded me into the person I am today.  I can’t watch True Blood without thinking about the godfather of vampires who gave me nightmares.  How many other people can say that their first experience with vampires came at the hands of a real, honest to God vampire? (I know he was an actor, but to my seven-year-old brain, there was always the chance that he’d been real and you can never be too sure)

So today I wrote a letter to the incredible David Cochran Heath, the actor who portrayed Dracula, who is still active at Lamb’s Players Theatre today.  I thanked him for simultaneously inspiring and terrifying me.

It’s not often that a person can draw a line and pinpoint where inspiration comes from.  Even more rare is the chance to thank the source of inspiration.  And few people can say they have written a letter to a vampire.

Today I did all three.