The Humans by Matt Haig

The HumansTitle: The Humans
Author: Matt Haig
Published: 9 May 2013
Publisher: Canongate Books
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 7/10

This book, this actual book, is set right here, on Earth. It is about the meaning of life and nothing at all. It is about what it takes to kill somebody, and save them. It is about love and dead poets and wholenut peanut butter. It’s about matter and antimatter, everything and nothing, hope and hate. It’s about a forty-one-year-old female historian called Isobel and her fifteen-year-old son called Gulliver and the cleverest mathematician in the world. It is, in short, about how to become a human.

An unnamed alien is sent to earth in the guise of a forty-three-year-old mathematician named Andrew Martin. The aliens kidnapped and killed the real Andrew Martin shortly beforehand, after he proved the Riemann hypothesis – “the most significant mathematical puzzle the humans had ever faced”. It’s a breakthrough that would have “advanced the human race beyond anyone’s imagining”.

But the aliens – Vonnadorians – don’t want such a greedy, violent, narrow-minded species to achieve space travel and go around exploiting other planets and killing other beings. So they’ve sent an unpopular underling to do the unpleasant task of destroying all knowledge of the proof – wiping it from any computer, and killing anyone who might even know that it was solved. LIke Andrew’s wife Isobel and his son Gulliver.

Despite the Vonnadorians’ sophisticated technology however, they can only turn themselves into clones of humans, not replicate their memories. And their understanding of humanity is actually very unsophisticated and deeply, deeply cynical.

Thus, the new Andrew Martin is essentially a “forty-three-year-old newborn on planet Earth”. Or rather, a weirdly rational and extremely pessimistic newborn. He arrives naked and utterly clueless as to why he can’t walk around Cambridge without any clothes on. He stops at a petrol station and reads a copy of Cosmopolitan at the shop to educate himself, giving him a very skewed idea of humanity that focuses rather heavily on orgasms.

The new Andrew’s clumsy attempts to be human are often funny, but it gets a lot more serious when it comes to his wife and son. The original Andrew was a distant and uncaring father who always chose his work over his family, and as a result the alien Andrew’s extremely odd behaviour is not just baffling but hurtful to them.

Not that alien Andrew is happy to be on Earth. At first the only creature he can get along with is the family dog, Newton. He finds everything about humans repulsive and ridiculous, from their protruding noses to their feelings to their clothes. He’s shocked that they actually have spend parts of their short little lives reading instead of just instantly consuming books in capsules – “No wonder they were a species of primitives. By the time they had read enough books to actually reach a state of knowledge where they can do anything with it they are dead”. He criticises the news for being only news about humans (and not one of the other millions of species on the planet) and generally only about war and money rather than “new mathematical observations or still undiscovered polygons”. He can’t believe that the buildings and cars are all dead and stuck to the ground.

His home planet is, of course, completely different. They have no names because they never prioritise the individual over the collective. Their mastery of mathematics has given them immortality, telekinesis and many other gifts. The cars and buildings are living beings in beautiful, complex shapes. They have no weather, no fear, no war, no suffering etc. And they can’t just let the universe do what it wants to do, because [they] will be inside it for eternity”. Hence halting the progress of dangerous species like humans (and probably many others, from the sound of it).

The interesting thing is that the Vonnadorians have achieved many things that humanity desires, like highly advanced technology and immortality, but the novels forces us to look askance at these things when juxtaposed with primitive humanity and all its terrible flaws.

Because, of course, Andrew slowly becomes more and more human, and learns to appreciate humanity. It’s illogical and chaotic, but there’s a beauty in that craziness. As Andrew sees that, he reveals the darker side of his supposedly utopian home – that the Vonnadorians never enjoy anything, never feel anything, don’t care about each other. Despite their vast understanding of mathematics and everything that comes with it, they are stagnant in their understanding of other species and cultures. Andrew’s masters, who are constantly watching his progress, are unable to understand his growing empathy for humans, particularly his ‘wife’ Isobel and ‘son’ Gulliver. He doesn’t want to murder them for the greater good, but his masters won’t give him any choice in the matter.

This novel has frequently been lauded as inspiring and heartwarming, and it’s easy to see why. It wholeheartedly affirms the wonders of human life, despite all its shortcomings and failures. It’s sf aspects are not particularly impressive, but it’s got a feel-good aspect to it that I don’t often encounter in the genre, and it’s the kind of well-written, emotionally charged book that you can give to people who scoff at sff to show them that it’s not whatever cliche they assume it to be.

I’m not a particularly sentimental person though, and there were times when I felt like I was reading the literary equivalent of a Disney movie, particularly in the way alien Andrew becomes a far better father and husband than the original ever was. There’s also a very soft fluffiness in that his growing appreciation for humanity is made so easy by the privileges of Andrew Martin’s life. He’s extremely intelligent, well-educated, has meaningful work as a professor at Cambridge University, lives in a large, comfortable home, enjoys good food and wine. He doesn’t live in an impoverished country, doesn’t have to worry about food, shelter, medical care, political unrest, or a high crime rate. He doesn’t have to deal with the prejudices or other difficulties that might arise from being black, gay, female, poor, disabled, etc. Andrew Martin is a straight white male from an intellectual elite living a cushy life in a first-world country. The only way you could make it easier for him to appreciate being human would be to make him young, gorgeous and athletic too

So, Andrew’s supposedly inspiring insights into the beauty of humanity can sometimes be rather trite or narrow-minded. As a result, It wasn’t a profound and meaningful read for me, as it seems to have been for some people.

That said, it has an optimism that I find charming and perhaps even important. Whether or not your life is anything like Andrew Martin’s it helps to be reminded to appreciate the little things or the way the bad things in life can be good for you. Haig also does some really beautiful things with his story, by entwining mathematics and poetry with Andrew’s awakening. One of the reasons he learns to love humans is the poetry of Emily Dickinson, which is frequently quoted amidst other lovely bits of literature.

And, overall, The Humans is just a nice book to read. That might sound bland, but amidst the horror, grimdark, and dark fantasy, the dystopian and (post)apocalyptic fiction, it helps to be reminded that the world isn’t always as bleak as the Vonnadorians assume.

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By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan

By Blood We LiveTitle: By Blood We Live
Series: The Last Werewolf / Bloodlines
Author: Glen Duncan
Published: 6 February 2014
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genre: fantasy, horror
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 6/10

By Blood We Live picks up two years after the events of Talulla Rising. The 20 000-year-old vampire Remshi wakes up to find that he’s been asleep all this time, much to the dismay of his human partner Justine. They’re still trying to sort out their issues when they’re attacked,and Remshi is forced to turn Justine in order to save her life. Through Justine’s blood, Remshi recovers his memories of his obsession with Talulla, who he believes is the reincarnation of his only love, a werewolf named Vali who died 17 000 years ago.

Meanwhile Talulla and the twins are still with the pack from the previous book. Talulla is still with Walker, but their relationship is strained. She never loved him like she loved Jake, and things were never the same after Remshi came to see Talulla and said he’d come back for her.

There’s an outside threat too. WOCOP is no more, but they have been replaced by the Militi Christi, a militant Christian group determined to wipe out werewolves and vampires for the glory of god. The werewolf population has exploded since the virus was cured, and Talulla and Madeline started creating new wolves. The world is turning against both vampires and werewolves, and when Talulla learns of a possible cure, she has to decide if that’s something she wants for herself and her children.

Like the previous two books, By Blood We Live has everything that has come to define this series. Loads of gory violence, most of it involving monsters eating humans. Lots of musing on the psychological experience of being a monster who eats humans and absorbs their memories along through flesh and blood. Conflict with a human organisation whose aim is to kill monsters. There isn’t quite as much sex as before, but there is something new – a vampire having sex with a transformed werewolf (it was really only a matter of time).

However, there are some crucial differences in By Blood We Live. There are two vampire narrators, so for the first time we get some insight into their experiences. While Talulla and Jake spoke of the Curse and the wulf, Remshi speaks about vampirism as the Lash. We also have four narrators total – Remshi, Justine, Talulla and Walker. Justine leaves Remshi shortly after he turns her, believing that he’s going to leave for Talulla anyway. She decides to track down the people who abused her as a child, now that she has all these new vampiric abilities. Remshi goes after her while trying to track down Talulla at the same time. Talulla has been given the book that Jake was looking for, which describes the origin of the werewolf race and apparently gives the cure. However, the pages detailing the cure have been removed; to get them Talulla will have to meet with the vampire who sent her the book. At any rate, she has more immediate problems – the Militi Christi are trying to kill her family. Poor Walker knows that he’s relationship’s about to end, thanks to a dead werewolf and a mythical vampire. He’s well aware of Talulla’s awkward attempts to get him to have sex with his maker Madeline so that she won’t feel so guilty about leaving him.

There’s an interesting moral quandary regarding the attempt to wipe out werewolves and vampires. One of the defining characteristics of this series is that Duncan doesn’t hide the monstrousness of vamps and weres but emphasises and explores it. It’s impossible for them to exist without killing humans so obviously peaceful co-existence is impossible and violence is inevitable, as Talulla explains:

Here was the core of monstrosity: if you were a monster the human world had nothing to offer you but the just demand for your death. And since they were, in the last analysis, your food and drink, what could they be but right? There was no argument you could bring against them. All you could bring was your monstrous enmity.

Because the vamps and weres are the protagonists, the reader has the opportunity to empathise with them, but they’re still the bad guys. They’re murderers who can’t make any moral objection to the attempts at their genocide. I thought Duncan made a fantastic moral dilemma out of this in the previous book – Talulla was tortured, experimented upon and almost raped, but she admitted that nothing those people did to her was any worse than things she’d done. She wanted to survive but she couldn’t really complain about the violence per se. She was a monster attacked by other – lesser – monsters.

In this novel, Duncan sets up a similar dilemma although I found it less interesting. The Militi Christi are, in one sense, the good guys, because they’re trying to save humanity from a terrifying danger. However, they’re a bunch of militant Christians, and that already sets off lots of alarms. Then you get a closer look at them, and to no one’s surprise, they’re a bunch of ridiculous hypocrites. My problem with this is that’s it too easy to dislike them and side with our monstrous protagonists. WOCOP was also unlikeable, although in different ways. Given that there’s a very good reason for humans to want to wipe out werewolves and vampires, I thought it would be more complex and engaging to have an organisation the reader might actually side with.

Because, honestly, I’ve gotten tired of this monster formula now and I want something to shake it up. It was good in The Last Werewolf and it was great in Talulla Rising, but it’s old in By Blood We Live, especially since I read all three books within a short space of time. I know all about how the Curse (and now the Lash) makes you enjoy being evil. How “It’s only the best for us if it’s the worst for them.” God’s dead but irony’s still rollickingly alive. The great mathematical silence. How werewolves and vampires are like libraries because they absorb the memories of their victims (this is actually awesome, but I often wish Duncan would do more with it). Remshi seemed liked an interesting badass guy in the previous book; here, he’s actually quite a nice guy, but also quite boring.

That said, this book is not without its merits. The way memories are absorbed through the blood becomes really twisted when Justine drinks the man who sexually abused her, and in doing so gains his memories of the abuse, seeing herself through his eyes. Drinking/eating people is compared to reading, and Remshi warns her of the danger of it:

Reading a book is a dangerous thing, Justine. A book can make you find room in yourself for something you never thought you’d understand. Or worse, something you never wanted to understand.

Each of the books has at least one really horrific moment, and this is the one that stood out for me.

I also like that the characters are struggling with the possible truth of myths, dreams, patterns and prophecies. They’re all cynics who don’t believe in god, religion or fairytales, so when they’re faced with the myth of the origin of werewolves, prescient dreams, Remshi’s prophecy about joining the blood of the werewolf (which he wrote himself), and the patterns and connections that appear after feeding, they feel absurd. While they have to admit that they’re all fairytale creatures themselves, they’re disgusted by belief in dreams and prophecies, especially when it seems like they really are caught up in some cosmic plan. It’s amusing in a macabre sort of way.

Appropriately, the prophecy also gets entwined with the poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning. I’m not familiar with it, but Talulla describes it as a poem about going on and on without hope, on a quest without any clear purpose. This applies to Remshi in particular, but is starting to characterise Talulla’s journey as well. How can she and her children live on in a world that wants them dead? It’s a question I paused to think about a few times during the book.

Ultimately though, the flaws outweigh the merits for me, and I judged this to be my least favourite book in the series. I didn’t hate it; I just found it a bit boring. If the series continues, I doubt I’ll continue reading it. And there is a definite possibility for a fourth book, which could focus on an all-out war between humans and the werewolves and vampires. Which, admittedly, could be interesting. And maybe I just need a break from this sort of style and content to appreciate it more. We’ll see.

Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

Talulla RisingTitle: Talulla Rising
Series: The Last Werewolf
Author: Glen Duncan
Published:
 
2012
Publisher: 
Canongate Books
Genre:
 
fantasy, thriller
Source: 
own copy
Rating: 
8/10

Please note: This review contains massive spoilers for book 1, The Last Werewolf.

The Last Werewolf ended with a lot of drama. Talulla was revealed to be pregnant, something no one thought was possible. Grainer knew all about Ellis’s plans to subvert WOCOP, save the werewolves and kill Grainer, so Ellis got killed instead. It looked like Jake and Talulla would both get their heads cut off, but then Cloquet pitched up in a bit of a deus ex machina and shot Grainer as revenge for killing Cloquet’s lover, Jacqueline Delon. It suddenly looked like Jake would survive, but that seemed a little too good to be true so I wasn’t surprised when Grainer managed to kill him with one last shot before dying. Talulla escaped with Cloquet’s help, and he became her handler (like Harley was for Jake)

Book 2 opens on Cloquet and a heavily pregnant Talulla hiding out in a cabin in the woods. Being a pregnant werewolf is a particularly painful experience (“biology made me its punchbag”), but Talulla gives birth much sooner than expected. Unfortunately, her son is immediately kidnapped by vampires. Luckily they don’t hang around so they miss the birth of a twin girl.

Talulla names the baby Zoë and heads out, determined to save her son – who she names Lorcan. She assumes the vampires have kidnapped him for their Helios Project – based on the discovery that a werewolf bite can grant immunity to sunlight – but the truth is worse. A small group of fanatical vampires believe in a myth about an ancient vampire named Remshi, the oldest of their kind, who reappears every few hundred years and has the ability to walk in the sunlight. To reach his full power, he has to drink the blood of a werewolf. Talulla has only a short time to find her son before they sacrifice him.

Besides taking on vampires and looking after an infant, Talulla has to worry about WOCOP, which found itself a psychopathic new leader after the loss of Grainer and Jacqueline Delon. It’s a story that manages to be even more violent and intense than the first one. And I really like it that way.

 

If I had to pick just one thing I liked about Talulla Rising, it’d be this quote:

Keep reading, Lu, Jake had advised. Literature is humanity’s broad-minded alter-ego, with room in its heart even for monsters, even for you. It’s humanity without the judgement.

But, luckily, I get to say as much as I want about why I enjoyed this book. Although I wasn’t blown away by The Last Werewolf as many readers were, I liked it well enough and I was optimistic about the second book because I thought Talulla’s narration might be more to my taste. And it is. Jake was old-fashioned and philosophical, so while I liked his insights I found his style a bit overwrought and eventually tiring. Talulla, born in the 20th century, is a bit more straightforward and her story is much more dire, giving her less time for introspection. However, we still get some of Jake’s more literary insights as Talulla quotes from his journals. The best of both worlds. There’s even a note about Jake’s possible sexual relationship with Harley, which is something I thought should have come up in the first book.

For me, Talulla also better illustrates the realities and paradoxes of being a monster. It’s clearly an important theme for this series and a major part of Jake’s character, but they both knew Talulla was the better wulf. Also, we mostly saw Jake killing strangers or enemies, and we learned of all the charity work he’d done to balance out all the murders. Talulla has not yet had the opportunity to balance out her kills, she speaks more about how the kill is better for her when it’s worse for the vicim, and there is the ever-present threat of her killing people she – and the reader – cares about. Because for werewolves, “nothing compares to killing the thing you love”. Jake made an effort to be less of a monster by, for example, avoiding women he could fall in love with. Talulla, is forced to consider the full extent of her monstrosity. Is there anything, she asks herself, that she wouldn’t do?

Throughout the book she thinks about being a “Very Bad Dirty Filthy Little Girl” – she’s always done bad things, and she’s always enjoyed it. Now, she’s faced with the prospect of killing and eating her own children and enjoying it even though she’d hate herself for doing it. She wasn’t sure if she wanted them, was worried that she wouldn’t love them and when the vampires take Lorcan she doesn’t make much of an effort to save him; the guilt of which haunts her from that moment on. She thinks about how everything would be easier if she knew for sure that he was dead and she didn’t have to risk her life to rescue him. She berates herself for thinking about sex (or having really good sex) while her son is missing. What kind of a mother is she?

She’s a bad person who gets a kind of superhuman (or rather, inhuman) enjoyment from being bad and although she doesn’t often feel guilty about her sins, it bothers her that she doesn’t have that guilt. It’s a tangle of self-conscious immorality from which she will probably never find any peace.

In addition, Talulla endures terrible pain and suffering at the hands of others – a monster at the mercy of other monsters. Although determined to do whatever is necessary to save herself, she admits that she is no better, and is arguably even worse that the people doing unspeakably cruel things to her. It’s just that she’s suddenly on the receiving end. And as the reader I like her and root for her because she’s the protagonist, but I also know she’d have lots of fun murdering and eating me, she’d enjoy it even more if she could make it extra painful and terrifying, and afterwards she wouldn’t feel guilty about it. At most she’d feel bad for not feeling guilty and I’d just be another ghost in her soul.

It’s because she’s so scary that I find Talulla to be a wonderfully dark, twisted character, and not only as a kind of literary exploration of the werewolf as a monster. She’s also an action hero, a dutiful daughter, a new mother, a friend, a lover, and all these things come into play. I particularly liked the scene where she and Cloquet join two special forces agents in a house with 5 butchered bodies. The agents are weirded out by the fact that she’s carrying Zoë, and leaves when the baby starts to cry. But Talulla needs information, so she starts breastfeeding little Zoë while she and Cloquet search for clues amidst the gore. It’s nothing if not practical. Later, Talulla leaves Zoë behind and boards a flight to go rescue Lorcan, but the flight has unexpected consequences for her as a new mother:

The flight’s other reality slap was that I’d given no thought to having suddenly stopped breastfeeding. By the time what would’ve been Zoë’s third consecutive feed had come and gone the unsuckled milk had started a knifey protest. Look, I know we’re on a mission – but would you mind if we tried to find somewhere that sells breast-pumps when we land?

I love that Duncan doesn’t make Talulla a weak, vulnerable woman in need of protection just because she’s a new mother. Lactating and looking after a baby are just two items in a list of other practical concerns like getting guns and booking flights. She heads out with a bunch of people – most of whom aren’t nearly as badass as she is – goes into dangerous situations and rips people’s arms off. She gets help when she needs it and sometimes needs to be rescued, but she’s just as capable of saving herself too. Another favourite, and unexpectedly touching scene is when Talulla’s trapped in a particularly harrowing and almost hopeless situation, and imagines her mother (who was also a “Very Bad Girl”) guiding her through the violent kill that’s required for her escape:

My mother said: Be accurate, angel. Believe you can do this, and be accurate. I’m so proud of you.

So yeah, I’m impressed with this book. It’s got everything I liked about The Last Werewolf – the monster/wulf themes, the violence, the sex, the action, the danger – and it improved on what I didn’t like – the overwhelming intensity of Jake’s style. It’s also got way more female characters (the details of which would constitute a spoiler) and does lots of interesting things with the idea of a woman as a werewolf. It’s not brilliant – there are small things that bug me and on the whole it just lacks a certain something – but it’s still a pretty amazing book. Definitely the best vampire/werewolf book I’ve read. I’m looking forward to the final book, By Blood We Live, which is actually being published TODAY.

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

The Last Werewolf

Title: The Last Werewolf
Author: Glen Duncan
Published:
 
2011
Publisher: 
my eBook published by Canongate Books
Genre:
 
fantasy, thriller
Source: 
own copy
Rating: 
6/10

Jacob Marlowe is officially the last werewolf. WOCOP – World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena – has just cut off the head of his only contemporary, and they’ll come after him at the next full moon. Grainer, the agent in charge of the hunt, wants the wolf, not the man.

Harley, Jake’s only friend, is an aged WOCOP agent who has been trying to keep Jake safe from the organisation for years. He’s ready to help Jake escape and disappear again, but the 200-year-old werewolf is tired. He’s depressed, world-weary and lonely. Every person he’s eaten lingers within him like a ghost. He no longer feels guilty about killing, but he’s still haunted by his first victim – his beloved wife. After her death he refused to let himself fall in love with anyone else; a painful way to live for 200 centuries. Now he just wants to write the “untellable tale” of his wife’s death, and then submit to his own death – and that of his species – at Grainer’s hands.

But he has Harley’s feelings to consider. And then the vampires get involved, because for some reason they want him alive. Even WOCOP seems unsure about killing him, partly because it would mean the end of an era and one of their reasons for existing. Jacob is caught up in the question of whether or not to keep living, while trying to maintain his freedom from the people who want to make that decision for him.

I’ve been on the fence about this series. Although I’ve heard good things about it, the whole paranormal romance genre has put me off anything with vampires and werewolves in it. Could this really be something different and interesting? Or is it just more proof that people need to stop writing about vampires and werewolves for a couple of decades?

I was encouraged by the fact that it was published by Canongate, which offers the kind of literary spec fic I like (most notably, their Myths series). The reviews made it look intriguing too, suggesting a ‘realistically’ gritty psychological portrayal of a werewolf, with loads of sex and violence. A werewolf/vampire book with substance, but fun too. So when Canongate made book 3 – By Blood We Liveavailable on NetGalley, I requested it and decided to review the whole series.

I’m still deciding if this was a good idea. On the one hand The Last Werewolf certainly is different, and there are lots of interesting things about it. There are major sexual relationships in the plot, but they’re visceral and ravenous, not the kind of Twilight crap that makes me want to throw up. But as much as I like the content I don’t like the style.

Jake is a very philosophical werewolf, which makes him markedly different from the rest of his species. Vampires hate werewolves for several reasons, one of which is their loss of speech during the transformation. After a while, this begins to affect their human counterparts, and they become less eloquent or barely talk at all.

Except Jacob. For years he has kept journals telling the story of his life, and this novel is mostly his memoir. He frequently reflects on the experience of being a werewolf. He speaks of the initial decision of whether to kill yourself or come to terms with the fact that you HAVE to kill and eat people (animal flesh won’t work). He has to deal with a raging sexual appetite, which was problematic for straight werewolves because females are beyond rare, and is problematic for Jake in particular because he only sleeps with women he dislikes to avoid falling in love. He attempts to balance out the all the murders by making money for charities, which he thinks of “vestigial ethical craziness”.

His transformation into a 9-foot tall werewolf is far more bestial than any other portrayal I’ve come across, in either books or movies. Besides eating people alive in graphic detail, he also describes other animalistic aspects of his nature, like marking trees with urine, or getting an erection when he smells a woman. The wolf has a “fuckkilleat” mentality that doesn’t fade away when it turns back into a man. It’s not pretty, it’s not sexy. It’s very violent and unabashedly immoral. And I like that about it. Duncan lets werewolves (and vampires) be monsters who enjoy doing things they know are horrific. Jacob’s self-reflective manner gives us so many insights into the man and the monster. There are some deliciously dark quotes:

Nothing like the blood and meat of the young. You can taste the audacity of hope.

 

Even underground the rising full moon like the Virgin Mary on a bed saying please, please, please just fuck me, will you?

 

About his victims: Yet somehow between then and now near enough two thousand victims. I thought of them in a concentration camp heap. My guts are a mass grave.

The downside is that I don’t like Duncan/Jake’s baroque style of narration. He was born in the 1800s, and his speech never quite modernised. Some readers might find it poetic or rich. I find it overwrought. Not purple, but it gets tiring. It’s not that it’s boring or badly written; I highlighted quite a few quotes that I liked, and I generally enjoy this sort of thing. But in this case there’s too much of it, the impact gets lost, and by the end I was skimming Jake’s musing because it felt like more of the same and had no real bearing on the plot. Not as bad as, say, Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice (I would have staked Louis to put an end to his whining) but that novel often came to mind.

Normally I write about how I want characterisation to balance out the action, but this time the action and other plot development balances out the more interior stuff simply because it’s written in a simpler, more straightforward style. In fact, I would have liked to hear more stories from Jake’s past, particularly regarding his relationship with Harley, who has become an old man while Jake remains as youthful as the day they met fifty years ago. Also, because Harley’s gay and it’s possible that Jake is open to a homosexual relationship, I kept wondering if Harley loved Jake as more than a friend and if anything had ever happened between them. However, the novel seems to avoid this issue.

But hey, at least it’s not the romanticised werewolf/vampire story that has made vampires and werewolves so unappealing over the past few years. I didn’t love it, but I liked it well enough, and re-reading my Kindle notes and highlights makes me appreciate it a bit more. I’ll keep on with the series since I’ve agreed to review the third book, but also because the second book has a different narrator who is very different from Jacob and should have a completely different voice. I might miss his keen observations, but Talulla Rising has the premise for a very interesting story.