The Wild - Whitley Strieber


When Bob Duke turns into a wolf and begins to roam the streets of Manhattan, his wife and son vow to find him and restore his humanity. By the author of The Wolfen and Communion.

The First thing that should be noted, gotten out of the way first, is to emphasize this is no ordinary werewolf novel.

Nope, you don’t have furry man-beasts sniffing out human flesh here, folks. You also don’t have a constantly shifting creature raging against his inner impulses; there’s no moon watching here, no silver bullets to be dodged, and no strange herbs to devour to fend off any curses. The plot may not even sound that horrorish - see, I can invent new words =) It reads out more of a drama, the horror being the forcefulness of the situation Bob Duke finds himself in, the uncertainty, and his rebelliousness against the change attacking his body.

Bob Duke becomes a wolf one night at a hotel on a business trip. The next day he briefly wonders if he imagined the whole thing. The signs are hard to ignore, but the man does his best when he gets home to wifey and son. Awaiting him is a pile of mounting bills, unpaid debts, eviction notices, marital pressure, possible homelessness, therapy, his young son reading Kafka like it’s a guide, and, oh, yeah, dreams of becoming a wolf. Just the ideal American life, eh?

Unfortunately for him at the time, one night he completely changes – in front of family and therapist friend. Since Bob isn’t the most rational sort of being, who clearly doesn’t think things through all the way and acts on impulse at times, he ends up in a heap of worse trouble when he bites a visiting, gossipy neighbor who insists on insulting his ‘tail-wagging’ capabilities. Hauled off to the pound, experiencing the fear other doggies do awaiting the dreaded ‘room’, all chaos ensues from there.

Bob the man, and Bob the wolf, go through many changes in the novel, roaming from different horrible locations, trapped inside the body of a wolf. His mind is still human and although slowly wolf instincts take over, he rebels against the change in his being and vows to save the day by becoming human again. His wife and young son, knowing what has happened, enlist in the aide of an old Indian, determined to save their loved one before either his life is snuffed out…or his sanity.

Bob Duke is an interesting character because he, as a protagonist, isn’t the usual strong-willed type you read about. His strength is in other areas, but on the outside he’s a man not able to provide for his family, make much money at his job, handle the billing in a reasonable manner, or gather up much motivation to change. He also is kind-hearted and a bit too nice and na├»ve, as is made clear from chapter one. He is a natural poet by heart, and this is a constant regret to him. Instead of walking around weaving a pad with a pencil in his ear and stars in his eyes, reciting off verses on love, flowers, and the universe, he curses this ‘gift’ and feels as if he must write poetry because it’s a part of him, not because he wants to.

His wife (her name escapes me at the moment and I don’t have the book in front of me as I’m doing this review) is stronger-willed, but hasn’t worked much in her life. She’s a hard worker when it comes down to it, but her personality would be better suited to a position where she called all the shots. She always stood by her husband, although he let her down at times, ignoring some of the facts until they swerved around and bit her in the behind, but is determined to make things right again. Something one has to admire.

The son (same situation with me and not remember names to save my life) is an adorable young adolescent who buries his nose in serious works such as Kafka, discusses theories and such at the dinner table, and being the typical intellectual, loner kid.

The pacing of the novel is strong enough to keep all the words flowing. It begins with Bobs recaps about life and a time at the zoo, from there progressing to the change and then, finally, the end result.

Strieber writes with a heavy hand at times, spinning out colorful phrases. His wording is intriguing, his style serious. He does inject humor in the story when it’s needed, a type of irony, but does so in a way that seems to come naturally. At first his style was a bit hard for me to get into, but pretty soon I was wrapped up and began looking forward to it.

The wild, not your typical horror novel, one that devotes itself mainly to change, human nature, and acceptance, reads like a dark drama. It’s not a werewolf story per se, so don’t go in expecting this to be unleashed, but it’s a satisfying one nonetheless. For a change we needed a different bite of wolf in our horror; this may be what some have been waiting for.

The beginning caught my interest and put me inside Bob’s head, making light of the desperation he felt in life. After this is it was time to ponder theories on why he changed (psychological reasons as implied by the therapist? Hypnosis by the wolf at the zoo? Old Indian legends?) , followed by ways for him to avoid the ‘doggy room’, the bullets, the crazed town citizens, other wild animals in the area, and finally how he would escape from it all and still manage to have a happy ending.

The middle of the novel was strong, with many varying locations and action filled scenes. The wolf Bobs thoughts were interesting and I felt myself drawn to him as a character. The ending surprised me a bit, and left me one happy camper.

*Strieber is also the author of the best selling novel, WOLFEN, another very different sort of wolf story. His works on the wild seem to rely as much on commentary as they do horror; about how nature is evolving and ruined, the old Indian ways, the natural spirits of the animals crushed under advancing change in a busy, modern world, and about man being forced to wake up through violence and freakish change.