Clifford Simak’s The Werewolf Principle is not a bad book. Unfortunately, it is missing the elements to make it a great book.
The Werewolf Principle (1967) is the story of Andrew Blake,a man found floating frozen in space and brought back to Earth to try to rebuild his life and find out who he is. Quickly, however, it is discovered that Blake is not what he seems, and no longer the man that he was. A he finds himself pursued and racing against time – and himself – to discover who and what he is. The title, I think I can safely say without being accused of introducing an un-announced spoiler to the conversation, is a reasonable clue.
There are so many touches to like about Simak’s writing. He had a peculiarly amusing imagination, and a sense of the pastoral which I always find evocative. This is particularly in evidence in this book and Ring Around the Sun, but as I read through each of his books I find that there is a similar voice, a descriptive flair which calls to mind places and scenes that I find familiar. In this reality, like a cozily-painted background on a canvas, Simak introduces more fantastic elements. In The Werewolf Principle, there are houses that fly from foundation to foundation, rooms that argue over the care of their inhabitants, a variety of flying vehicles and floating cars… These are all whimsical, imaginative turns, also reminiscent, not unsurprisingly, of 1968’s The Goblin Reservation, which this book reminds me of strongly. But for all of this, something happens where the story becomes disjointed and loses its smooth narrative flow. It even seemed as though the book ended around the 180th page, only to fire up into a lengthy coda, perhaps to meet a deadline or a word count.
Overall, The Werewolf Principle is a pleasant, quick read that didn’t require a lot of attention. If the story didn’t all hang together, then at least it made me smile along the way. It isn’t the pinnacle of science fiction writing, nor even of Simak’s writing, which most critics agree was in 1952’s City, demonstrates the burden that early success and acclaim can be for an author. Three stars.
Originally reviewed 8 May 2012.
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