Reviewed by Josh Kupecki, Fri., May 17, 2013
Red Moonby Benjamin Percy
Grand Central Publishing, 544 pp., $25.99
A heady mix of political allegory and urban fantasy, Red Moon depicts a world in which a portion of the world's population is infected with the lobos virus, giving them the ability to transform into werewolves, or lycans. Kept at bay from their urges by strict laws and a mandatory drug called Lupex, the lycan community are oppressed, second-class citizens. While the majority of lycans are law-abiding and living peacefully among us, a group of extremists seek to free their kind from the shackles of government control.
After a set of airplane attacks plunge the U.S. into a war with the Lupine Republic (somewhere between Finland and Russia), Patrick Gamble's father gets sent to the front lines, leaving the human teen to go live with his estranged mother in Oregon. He soon falls in with a lycan hate group that goes around town terrorizing suspected werewolves. He also meets Claire Forrester, a lycan who's on the run after her Weather Underground-like parents are gunned down by the government in cold blood. When Patrick's father goes missing, he enlists in the war, leaving Claire to traverse the hidden caves where lycan terrorists seek to escalate their aggression. Also in the mix is Chase Williams, a charismatic, right-wing presidential candidate campaigning on a rigorous anti-lycan platform, who, after an attack leaves him infected, must go to great lengths to conceal his werewolf tendencies.
Percy is a skilled writer, able to sympathetically portray both sides of this conflict, never resorting to a good-vs.-evil delineation. His novel examines the themes of race, religion, social injustice, and the war on terror while also providing a provocative update on the werewolf mythos. It's a shame, then, that the last third of the book is hampered by convoluted, blatant positioning that sees every major character converging together for a climax that is lackluster, especially given all that's come before. Still, those looking for some contemporary politics mixed in with their modern horror will definitely find something to sink their teeth into.