Wilderness coverWilderness by Dennis Danvers.

376 pages long.



First published in Britain in 1993 by Pocket Books, this is the debut novel by Dennis Danvers, an inhabitant of Richmond, Virginia, USA. The blurb on the front cover put me off a little. It quotes Ruth Rendell and her opinion of the book as "sensuous, erotic and compelling." I am normally put off by such nonsense anyway, usually ignoring them as I do the blurb on the back of a book. What made me notice this was who said it, not what was said. Ruth Rendell is not the first name to come to mind when thinking who might put their views forward on a horror novel, as I assumed this book was to be. Inside were more quotes to the books credit but again not from recognized horror writers. Indeed, apart from an extended Ruth Rendell quote, they were all from columnists or magazine reviewers.

The wolf head, howling before the moon on the spine gave away any secret that this was to be a werewolf novel, but the lack of serious horror writer endorsers had me wondering that maybe this book was about lycanthropy (people who suffer the delusion that they are werewolves) rather than the wolf-person as seen in many movies. I began reading; waiting to be pleased with my precognitive assessment being proved correct...I was wrong! The book does lend itself to the image of psychosis rather than curse, following the viewpoint of the lead, Alice White, unbelieved werewolf and although beautiful, lonely and unloved. Regular psychiatric visits help her only to release her frustration.

Here the book is well written, the feelings of Alice and her lonely existence is tangible. Sweeping adjectives describe the characters but do well in pigeon-holing them as particular types; pleasant, beautiful, striking, or sexy. Danver's way in description is obvious but effective. What he does well is capture the essence of certain aspects of people's personality, he is able in less than a paragraph to capture someone's emotions and the reader fills in the rest, making for characters which connect together in some great jigsaw puzzle way. Each character is linked to one another by their interactions, not only in their social aspects but also through their subliminal communications through glances or empathy with one another.

What I did not like about the book was the fact that the police were mentioned but not really used. Some idea of how the statements went or investigations into Alice's disappearance should have been included, perhaps it was lost through editing? It felt a little too easy for the events to unfold, the disparity of the situation never quite manifesting, things just fell a little too easily into place.

By the end of the book I was a little disappointed that the 'wolf' had less to do than it did, but on the whole it was an enjoyable read. The view point when from the wolf was very well done I thought , but I tend to like my werewolves to have a bit more savvy about them. The change from the norm was refreshing however. by the middle of the book I sort of had it sussed, this is not a detective story or who-dunnit, but a love story which just happens to revolve around a women who is, or believes, she is a werewolf. I particularly like the very ending, not so much a 'rode off into the sunset' as 'drove off back to the campground'.

I would recommend this book for Victoria Holt lovers or those who like an easy read but normally prefer thinking books. It may appeal to those who do not usually read horror or those that do but also like some light romance. Personally after reading Guy N. Smith and James Herbert, the sex and 'sensuousness' was tame, but that added to it rather than detracted. Full sex scenes in every chapter would have been silly, while the sexual libido of every character in the book, either primary or secondary was a little over worked I thought. All in all a good book for a weekend trip or just for a slightly different angle on the normal slant of werewolves.

Enjoyment: 6, Depth: 3, Readability: 6, Layout: 5, Value: 6.

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Last Updated: 8th May 2002