I tend to avoid reading novelizations of movies--I'd rather see novels made into movies, instead of the other way around. So, I approached The Wolfman by Jonathan Maberry with some trepidation. Since I haven't seen the movie yet, that at least didn't affect my reading of the novel. My verdict this time: mediocre. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. It was predictable for me. I'm actually back and forth on some things. It felt like a quick read, but I thought the novel was too long for the plot. And then there is the werewolf, or werewolves--a great monster, but a cliche.
The predictability of the story disappointed me, but that also may be because many current movies disappoint me in this aspect. Main character gets bitten by a werewolf, he turns into one himself, he kills the original werewolf, then dies at the hands of the one he loves since it's the only way to "save him". I pretty much knew right when Lawrence reached Blackmoor that his father, Sir John, was the werewolf. There wasn't really anyone else it could have been. I was hoping, beyond hope, for a twist, that perhaps Lawrence's mother, had been a werewolf. They claim she committed suicide at the beginning, and I would have loved to see that suicide be because of the monster she was and not wanting to put her family in any more danger. Sadly, of course, Sir John was the one who slaughtered Lawrence's mother.
Some of the descriptions were nice. I especially liked the full moon as the Goddess of the Hunt and the werewolves as her children. "Outside the moon rose into the sky with regal grace and the inevitability of death. It was huge and beautiful. The Goddess of the Hunt reached down with claws of silver moonlight to take the village of Blackmoor by the throat" (189). The imagery used with this association throughout the book was great.
Unfortunately, some of the description or backstory was a bit much. This book is 342 pages, and for a book this length you would think there is at least one decent subplot, if not two, but the closest we get to a subplot is the growing love between Lawrence and Gwen. The core plot of the book is stretched out overlong, in my opinion. Likely much of the description is longer because the novel is omniscient, not sticking to any one point of view even in a single scene--this made it feel more like a movie, and I didn't want to feel like I was reading a movie.
Things also got repetitive when it came to character development. Lawrence and Inspector Aberline could have been the same person, aside from their backgrounds and professions. Lawrence's reaction to seeing the werewolf for the first time: "All he could do was stand there and behold this thing. This monstrous impossibility. This perversion of all sense and sanity" (108). And then Inspector Aberline, after Lawrence changes before his eyes: "His mind felt disconnected from reality. He could not have seen the things he had seen. It was impossible, insane" (248). Both pursue the werewolf at the risk of their own lives, both are excellent at reading people, and both in the end are bitten. Parallels can sometimes be interesting, but I felt Lawrence's and Aberline's reactions and thoughts were too similar and detracted from rounding out their characters.
In this novel, the first werewolf, or Sir John, is dubbed the Werewolf, and Lawrence is the Wolfman. As humans, both are quite different. Sir John is a true monster--he knows what he is and allows himself to run loose as the Werewolf, frames Lawrence for his crimes, and kills everyone close to him. Perhaps that's why he's more wolf than man, as per the titles. He allows his beast to take over. Lawrence, on the other hand, hates what he's become and considers ending his own life to save others. The beast inside him doesn't rule the human. Some might say he isn't a monster. Only when he turns, and all human awareness vanishes, can he be considered a monster, and it's beyond his control. You have to wonder, though, if he survived as long as Sir John, would he, in the end, become the same? It's a possibility, especially if he would have lost Gwen by his own hand.
The werewolves in The Wolfman are cliche, unfortunately. Turn at the full moon, don't remember their actions as beasts, fast healing, and can only be harmed by silver. I do like the werewolf as a monster, but it would have been nice to see something different, a new layer to an old archetype.
I can't help but mention the fight scenes, if briefly. These bugged me the most, to be honest. The first big one we see is the slaughter at the Gypsy camp. All I kept thinking as I turned the pages was that it was too cinematic and over the top. That made me feel even more like I was reading a movie. I know werewolves are powerful, but it was all overdone, in my opinion.
I might have been overly critical of the book, but the things that annoyed me stuck out in my mind more than the things I enjoyed. The Wolfman is a good choice for the reader who likes novelizations of movies, and I'm just not one of those people.
Maberry, Jonathan. The Wolfman. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2010.