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Red Moon: A Novel by [Percy, Benjamin]
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Red Moon: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 205 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

A Conversation with Ben Percy

Peter and Emma StraubBen   Percy

Peter Straub is the author of such classics as Ghost Story, The Talisman (with Stephen King), and most recently A Dark Matter. His daughter Emma Straub is author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures.

Peter: Ben, Red Moon exists on the borderlands--beyond genre, but clearly playing in the world of horror and thrillers. Was this your intention when you started to write the novel?

Ben: I grew up on genre. Reading westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, spy thrillers. Reading horror especially. Your novels had a profound impact on me. So did the work of Stephen King and Robert R. McCammon and Anne Rice and Dan Simmons. When I took my first creative writing workshop as an undergrad, I felt so confused and affronted when the instructor said genre would be forbidden. I threw up my hand and very earnestly asked, "But what else is there?"

That semester, I fell in love with "literary" writers like Sherman Alexie and Alice Munro and Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver, but I never fell out of love with "genre." In fact, I missed its compulsive readability. I put "literary" and "genre" in quotation marks, because I'm getting more and more irritated with the designations, the need everyone feels to pin labels and distinguish one kind of story from another. If you look at Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove or Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road or your very own Ghost Story, they are neither fish nor fowl, both literary and genre. Pretty sentences, unforgettable characters, subterranean themes, rip-roaring plots. In writing Red Moon I was attempting to follow your tracks in the mud. To write a novel that was both thought provoking, artfully constructed, and thrilling.

Emma: Red Moon taps into what we fear now--physically, politically, and personally. How did you come up with the idea of transporting the werewolf myth to America's war on terror?

Ben: Some of the most resonant, lasting horror stories are those that channel cultural unease. Consider Frankenstein as a prime example. The way the creature embodies all the anxieties brought on by the Industrial Revolution: the fear of science and technology, of man playing God. The Red Scare gave rise to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Cold War anxieties are the platform for The Dead Zone. I was thinking about this--what we fear now--when I sat down to write Red Moon.

Peter: In the novel, you use the term "lycan" instead on "werewolf." What does the word "lycan" evoke for you that the classic word does not?

Ben: Werewolves have a rich mythology, and I wanted to honor that tradition while making it new, making it my own. I think this is why Justin Cronin uses the term virals (instead of vampires) in The Passage and why Robert Kirkman calls them walkers (instead of zombies) in The Walking Dead.

So lycan--short for lycanthropy, the psychological condition that makes you believe you can transform into a wolf--is one small sleight of hand that hints at the larger sorcery of the novel. My lycans are not full-moon howlers. They are infected with lobos, an animal-borne pathogen. Prions (the basis of Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting disease) are misfolded proteins that target the brain--and target in this novel rage and sexual impulse. I interviewed researchers at the USDA and Iowa State University to figure out the slippery science of this condition and create a believable horror.

Peter: The plot of Red Moon follows three interlocking strands and moves at a breakneck pace, often jumping ahead in time and letting the reader play catch up. Why did you structure the novel this way?

Ben: I’ve always loved epic, sweeping novels. Everything from TH White’s The Once and Future King to Stephen King’s The Stand to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Red Moon is a hefty book: it follows many characters over many years in many different places. The trick, when orchestrating something so complicated, is grabbing the reader’s attention and never letting go.

Long before I begin writing, I rip a long sheet of paper from my children's art easel and hang it from my office wall and begin to brainstorm. I sketch out plot points. I draw and build histories and emotional arcs for characters. I know that some writers prefer a more organic process, but my own feeling is, you don’t build a cathedral without a set of blueprints.

Over the top of the blueprint I sketch out a kind of cardiogram or seismograph in order to understand the spikes and dips in tension. I often move plot points around--sometimes withholding information for several chapters--in order to create different layers of tension and strategically organize explosive and revelatory moments.

Emma: My dad and I write very different types of books. Why do you think Red Moon appeals to both of us? Do you think there are some kinds of stories that appeal to all of us? Is it that werewolves, no matter how advanced or violent, have a whiff of our childhood fairytales?

Ben: Whiff of childhood fairytales. I like that. If there is ever a Red Moon perfume, instead of eau de toilette, I think it should be labeled as whiff of werewolf.

In Red Moon, I explore the evil hidden with all of us and within society. The werewolf myth resonates because we have all--as a result of rage or exhaustion or drugs or alcohol--come to regret our behavior the next morning. This is the story of Jekyll and Hyde, the story of the Incredible Hulk, an unleashed id, the wildness crouched inside all of us. If only bad guys all looked like Darth Vader. Instead the sex offender, the serial killer, the terrorist could be the guy who lives next door, and that's scary as hell, the realization that we're all different degrees of hairy on the inside.

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2013: On its surface, Red Moon is a book about werewolves, providing an alternate history behind the origins and growth of the werewolf population. At its core, however, this strikingly imaginative and terrifically detailed fantasy is about much more than werewolves. Dig deeper, and it operates on two very potent levels. It's an allegory that tears down the wall between fantasy and reality, using a creature to represent an unspecified people struggling for equal rights (perhaps of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disease, disability). It is also a reminder of our imperfect history, a snapshot of our volatile present, and a warning of a potentially dark future--where fear begets prejudice and prejudice begets policy. Among the werewolves, there are the amicable, the righteous, and the extremist. Likewise there are humans who coexist with their lycan neighbors, some of them peaceful, some of them oppressive. In bringing them all together, Percy creates a political parable that doesn't lecture, but equips us with the ability to examine the quagmire of cultural conflict from a safe, fictional distance. --Robin A. Rothman

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Doing for werewolves what Justin Cronin’s The Passage (2010) did for vampires, this literary horror novel is set in an alternate version of the present day. Everything is pretty much the same, except for one teensy difference: werewolves—or lycans, as Percy calls them—aren’t the stuff of mythology. They’re real, and they’ve existed for centuries: ordinary men and women afflicted with an unusual (and seemingly incurable) disease, lobos, which turns them into another sort of life-form altogether. Lycans and humans have established an uneasy peace, but, as the book opens, lycan terrorists seem determined to spark a bloody war. Percy focuses on a trio of engaging and beautifully drawn characters: Patrick, a boy who survives one of the terrorist attacks; Claire, a girl whose family is murdered for reasons she doesn’t clearly understand; and Chase, a governor whose aggressively anti-lycan views are challenged in a tragically ironic way. Parallels to the U.S. in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks are clear and deliberate, but it’s the way the author, following in the footsteps of such writers as Glen Duncan (in The Last Werewolf, 2011), humanizes the werewolf, turning him from snarling beast into a creature for whom we feel compassion and affection, that makes the book such a splendid read. Although the novel tells a self-contained story, there is plenty of room for a sequel, which would be most welcome. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 1905 KB
  • Print Length: 545 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 7, 2013)
  • Publication Date: May 7, 2013
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008TU2592
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,476 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
'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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is as much a social and political drama as it is a thriller. It's a story of a world divided and how the oppressed members of society are rebelling in order to claim their rights. It's a familiar story of struggle but the author has made it original by making the story not about race or religion but about the very definition of humanity. In this novel, society is divided based on whether one is a lycan (werewolf) or not. Lycans are controlled through being forced to take mind altering drugs. Despite the attempts at government control, they are still discriminated against and subjected to constant brutality by their fellow citizens. In retaliation, an underground revolution is beginning. The lycans want to have control over their own lives. In order to gain the public's attention, they resort to violence in the form of hijacking planes or bombings at public gatherings.
The story is told basically told through the eyes of two young people, Patrick and Claire. Patrick is the sole survivor on a flight that is hijacked by a lycan on a killing rampage. Claire is the daughter of a militant lycan who watches as her family is slaughtered by government agents. Through their stories you get the perspective from both sides.
The story is action packed and the author really knows how to keep you reading to find out what happens after a chapter's cliff hanger ending. Usually, in novels like this, there is an obvious good guy and bad guy. That isn't the case with this book. You are shown the good and bad in both sides so you understand why the characters act and react in the way that they do so it's hard to judge who's right or wrong in the big picture.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I completely see why this book got good reviews and some solid buzz - Percy tries very hard, puts a lot of characters in motion, is an 'epic' in the good sense of the word - after all, the future of humanity is at stake. The narrative sprawls across the planet, and there are plenty of shades of grey within the good and bad characters. It has mammoth dramatic flourishes and a few unexpected events - Percy isn't afraid to make big things happen.

But other than a few deviations, the characters are one-dimensional, and I've seen all of them represented in fiction before - the evil politician from The Dead Zone, the 'mutant scare' from the 1980s X-Men, the young lovers a la Twilight, and the literary take on werewolves follows in the path of Justin Cronin's Passage trilogy - it's all very well put together to be an unsurprising best seller. A summer beach reader will like it because for the most part it is very familiar and comfortable.

The 9/11 comparison is obvious and overdone. Since 9/11 did lead to two wars, you can't really say he exaggerated anything, but he certainly bludgeons the reader with his "us versus them" imagery. But like I said, I think it was more inspired by the X-Men comics of the 1980s than anything else.

Percy is a decent writer as far putting his plot in motion, but there are numerous places where details either don't match up, or are simply impossible or very unlikely.

For example, in the otherwise exciting opening scene where a werewolf 'revolutionary' massacres a planeload of people, one character survives.
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