Guest Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

May 5, 2013 / 2 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

You’ve heard me talk about my fiance – well, today you finally get to meet him! Since I’ve been super-busy with my wedding and various other ARCs, my fiance is doing today’s review!

Evan is the love of my life – and he’s also very smart sci-fi, film, and comic book aficionado who usually reads literary stuff like Michael Chabon and Salman Rushdie. He’s a big supporter of me and my blog, even though he doesn’t usually read YA. He did really like The Hunger Games, so when I got an ARC of Red Moon at the Ontario Blog Squad meet-up last November, I suggested he give it a try. Here are his thoughts (with gifs, courtesy of me!).

Red Moon
Author: Benjamin Percy 

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Ontario Blog Squad Bloggers Meet-Up 2012

Format: ARC, 544 pages
Expected publication date: May 7, 2013
Evan’s rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

They live among us.

They are our neighbors, our mothers, our lovers.

They change.

When government agents kick down Claire Forrester’s front door and murder her parents, Claire realizes just how different she is. Patrick Gamble was nothing special until the day he got on a plane and hours later stepped off it, the only passenger left alive, a hero. Chase Williams has sworn to protect the people of the United States from the menace in their midst, but he is becoming the very thing he has promised to destroy. So far, the threat has been controlled by laws and violence and drugs. But the night of the red moon is coming, when an unrecognizable world will emerge…and the battle for humanity will begin.


I’d like to think my 2.5 out of 5 star rating is less arbitrary than usual. It’s not only my subjective numerical assessment of the quality of the book; I also chose it to reflect my opinion that Red Moon really consists of two books: one that I quite liked, and one that I just didn’t like at all. So I give it 50%, half.
As Benjamin Percy himself writes, in one of his least insightful passages in the Red Moon that I didn’t like:
Everything suddenly feels like a double: […] the sun and the moon, the infected and the uninfected, the United States and the Republic, the president and his contender[…]. [T]he world feels split down the center.
And so does the book.

I’ll say more about the book I didn’t like later but I’d rather start with the good Red Moon, because it’s really quite good. My 4 out of 5 star review of the 250-page alternate reality version of this book would read something like this:
Red Moon is a clever allegorical horror novel about two teenagers from two different worlds struggling to find their identities in tragic circumstances. It takes place in an alternate present where some human beings have become Lycans – werewolves – due to a viral infection called Lobos. Unsurprisingly, xenophobia ensues. Lycans are essentially criminalized; it is illegal for them to Hulk/wolf out, and they are all required to take a mind-dulling drug called Lupex to suppress their symptoms (read: their identities).
Tiff: Wait, this is a werewolf novel? WHAT?!

Patrick, one of the book’s two teenage protagonists, is a nice, uninfected teenager from Oregon who tries to get along with people and see the best in them. He manages to unintentionally become a hero to the anti-Lycan movement after he is the only survivor of a 9/11-esque terrorist attack by a Lycan extremist group.
Claire, the other teenage protaganists, is a Lycan, and so are her parents. After the attack, Claire’s parents –one-time Lycan rights activists – are targeted and killed by a man with a black suit and a scarred face, presumably a government agent. Claire escapes, but the agent – whom Claire nicknames the Tall Man – pursues her.
She decides to go into hiding at her Aunt’s place in Oregon and, while hitchhiking, who happens to pick her up? You guessed it – Patrick. After that, they randomly meet a few more times – and the electricity flies – but, due to their circumstances, they have to go their separate ways, keeping in touch only through some very cute email correspondences.
Tiff: At least Evan liked some of the romance!
The violent and disturbing experiences that occur in Claire and Patrick’s lives transform them both into very different, extreme, singular-minded people with no time for anything but their missions. Of course, their missions put them on a collision course that causes them to eventually meet again. But how will they reconcile the opposite ideological courses their lives have taken?
Patrick and Claire’s story is actually an excellent little book (key word: little) about two people coming-of-age in a violent, hostile, and complicated world that tells them they should hate each other.
But let’s get to the Red Moon that I didn’t like, the one that is packed with an almost absurd number of subplots. There’s one about Chase Williams, a politician running for President of the United States on an anti-Lycan platform (but might he be a Lycan himself??). And there’s one about a scientist who is trying to develop a “cure” for Lobos. And one about Claire’s Aunt Miriam, who is kidnapped by the terrorists. And one about Patrick’s father, who is a soldier in the “Lupine Republic.” And one about the terrorist leader, Balor, who strangely seems to kill Lycans just as often as he kills humans.  And there are more.
Tiff: Uh-oh.

With the possible exception of the Chase Williams story, which has a few very good scenes towards the end of the book, none of these subplots connected with me on any sort of emotional level. They seemed to simply be designed to explore the deeper political landscape of the world. Unfortunately the world has no such depth to explore. All we get is a collection of direct parallels with familiar political issues from the last 50 or so years – 9/11, the war on terrorism, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, the civil rights movement, the KKK, Israel / Palestine.
Unfortunately, the passage I quoted at the beginning of this review – “it feels like the world is split down the center” – is about as deep and thematic as the book ever gets on any of these issues. I’m sorry, but mere parallels aren’t enough to make an interesting political novel.
So, as a political thriller, I did not like this book at all. In fact, I would describe it as unfocused, boring, and shallow. But, as a coming-of-age story in a horror setting, I thought it was quite good and I would even recommend it to others.
If only Red Moon had been split down the center.

Thanks, Ev! Guys, I totally thought this was a dystopian, not a paranormal book, and I feel terrible for getting that wrong (and giving Evan a 500+ page book – I am a mean fiancee!). I’m glad he liked that part of it, even if the rest wasn’t up to par. 

RED MOON comes out tomorrow. Are you interested in reading it? Are you into werewolves or really political stories? Let us know in the comments!

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2 responses to “Guest Review: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

  1. You should get Evan to write reviews once in a while! I think I have this on my shelf but haven't gotten to it. Sounds interesting (in the coming-of-age-story kind of way).

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