0513-red-moon-book-coverRed Moon is not merely about the werewolf, that familiar history and archetype—no, Red Moon (Grand Central) by Benjamin Percy is a brilliant blend of genre horror and literary poetics that reveals the creature in us all, and a debate about what it is to be human and where our priorities rest. Weaving a hypnotic tapestry of connected stories, Percy allows us to follow a cast of characters, good and bad, on an epic journey that distills the heart and soul of other classic post-apocalyptic tales such as The Stand, The Road, and Swan Song. Part of the new movement of genre-bending work that is dominating publishing today, Percy has written a novel that is approachable and yet layered, familiar and yet unique, ancient and achingly visionary.

red moon betterI can’t think of another book that is more timely and relevant to the world we live in at this precise moment—the post-September 11th, post-Boston Marathon bombing landscape of heightened xenophobia and security—than Red Moon. Like Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Red Moon speaks to us right out of the headlines, the perpetual CNN and Fox News scroll that is the absurdly real backdrop of our lives.

benstickerMB: Have you ever heard the song “Ben” by Michael Jackson? If not already, I don’t know that I could recommend it in good faith. At the same time, if anyone could reprise the last line of the song, it’s you, in your voice. (“I’m sure they’d think again if they had a friend like Ben.”)

BP: I love that song so much, not only because of my name, but because it is about a filthy sewer rat. The ethereal flute-like piping of Michael Jackson’s voice is what I wish I sounded like, but I’ve been burdened with a subwoofer that sounds a little like a drunk Darth Vader imitating the ringside monologue of a professional wrestler.

A round-up of high quality tweets from people in the world of literature…

Benjamin Percy:


The Wilding by Benjamin Percy is a powerful book packed with tension, unease, and life at the edge of the forest, where quite possibly man should stay. It is an intricate weaving of several different point of views: the fractured soldier back from fighting in Baghdad, Brian, who dresses up in the hide of wild animals, creeping around the woods, spying on a woman he longs for, eager for some sort of meaningful contact; Justin, the beaten down husband of Karen, a woman unhappy and distant after a miscarriage; their son, Graham, a bookworm, about to make his first kill; and the grandfather, Paul, watching over them all with disdain, longing to make men of his boys, at whatever cost. And looming at the edge of it all is the violence of nature, the push back of locals frustrated by the expansion of business, the unseen bear that haunts the Oregon woods, waiting to tear them apart.

JE: I was stoked to get my hands on a copy of  The Wilding from Graywolf’s Marisa Atkinson when I was in Denver for the Mountains and Plains Indie Booksellers show a few weeks back. A lot of people are talking about this book -people I listen to. Some of them are comparing The Wilding to James Dickey’s spare and creepy masterpiece, Deliverance.

Percy’s muse is central Oregon, an area I’m quite familiar with, having spent a lot of time down there (between Bend and the high desert in Christmas Valley to the south). Like Dickey’s fictional Cahulawassee River Valley, Percy’s setting for The Wilding, Echo Canyon, is a rugged wilderness slated for destruction. Because I hate writing exposition, here’s a short synopsis of The Wilding from PW’s starred review of the book:

The plot concerns a hunting trip taken by Justin Caves and his sixth-grade son, Graham, with Justin’s bullying father, Paul, a passionate outdoorsman in failing health who’s determined to spend one last weekend in the Echo Canyon before real estate developer Bobby Fremont turns the sublime pocket of wilderness into a golfing resort. Justin, a high school English teacher, has hit an almost terminally rough patch in his marriage to Karen, who, while the boys camp, contemplates an affair with Bobby, though she may have bigger problems with wounded Iraq war vet Brian, a case study in creepy stalker. The men, meanwhile, are being tracked by a beast and must contend with a vengeful roughneck roaming the woods.

Maybe what I like most about The Wilding is this: something actually happens! Some might even argue too much happens. This novel is full of adventure, suspense, and horror. Sometimes when writers juggle points-of-view it serves mostly to divert the reader from an otherwise static narrative. It’s a little trick we use in a pinch. But Percy, like Dickey, like Jack London, knows how to move a story. The Wilding is a page-turner in the best sense. There were moments when I was tempted to skip ahead. Nothing wrong with that kind of narrative momentum. But also I wanted to linger, because Percy writes well, in language that is crisp and nuanced, but not overwrought or self-congratulatory, and because Percy’s characters beg me to understand them, to follow them into their dark places. Though he overplays his hand at times with the club and fang theme, and the action is owing to a convenient wealth of wildlife at nearly every juncture (rattlesnakes underfoot, bucks moseying by, owls all over the place, vultures loitering, grizzly bears, and rednecks stalking them), it is Percy’s well-drawn self-conscious characters, and his tremendous writing which shine through. The Wilding is a highly compelling read, by a writer who is going to be around a long time.