Morrow (original publisher)
Review by Nickolas Cook
Personally, this reviewer thinks this is one of the classics of ’70s horror fiction (but I may be a bit biased) and it deserves a new audience. Sure, it’s a bit dated because of updated surveillance and detection technology available to today’s law enforcement, but still has bite … where it counts.
There is a species of prehistoric and super intelligent wolf-like creatures that feeds off of the dregs of society, the ones that aren’t likely to be missed: drug addicts, the homeless, etc., etc., and one particular pack of them is doing so in New York City.
Unfortunately these wolf-like creatures kill a couple of on duty officers at a landfill and garner the attention of the police. That’s where Detectives George Wilson and Becky Neff come in, when they are assigned to the case. Along the way they find compelling evidence that this was no ordinary murder and try to call attention to the fact that something not human may be preying on the citizens of NYC. Of course, in true horror fiction fashion, no one believes them, despite some pretty overwhelming evidence, and the authorities try to shut them down before the press can get wind of their arguments.
But now the Wolfen (the name for the wolf-like monsters) know they’ve been exposed to humans and they must destroy Wilson and Neff before it’s too late.
What starts as a police procedural with a twist, soon becomes a chase novel (the Wolfen chasing the detectives) and then finally a siege novel.
By the novel’s end, Streiber leaves us with the notion that there are countless packs of these Wolfens roaming the world and soon their secret will be known to all mankind.
Of course, he doesn’t say what we’re likely to do to them once that happens, but I think we’ve all seen enough Hunting Channel to know we’re probably going to shoot them as quick as possible, right?
As good as the book is, there are problems. The first is that the dialogue comes off a bit stilted here and there, making it feel cardboard and unconvincing. Another issue I had is how far the authorities are willing to go to ignore the facts and keep the detectives silent. I suppose it could happen that way, but given the amount of evidence to the contrary, calling the killings a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and indigenous after-death feeding seems a little too contrived to me. Of course, I’m sure he was concerned with pace at that point and didn’t want to hurry to fast towards the frantic, nail-biting conclusion.
Still, despite these minor flaws, WOLFEN is still a damned good read and should be picked up by any horror fan who wants to dive into the history of great horror bestsellers from the 70s.