Benjamin Percy’s new novel, “Red Moon,” is the latest example of a recent trend: the “literary” writer trying his hand at the “genre” game. John Banville did it with his “Benjamin Black” detective novels. Justin Cronin did it with his vampire blockbuster, “The Passage.” Now Percy — winner of a prestigious Whiting Writers’ Award — has crossed over to the pulpy side.
“Red Moon” is a blood-soaked, apocalyptic werewolf novel, set in an alternative world where the biggest issue facing the United States isn’t a stalled economy but a restless minority population of “lycans” — humans who have been infected by a pathogen that enables them to transform, for brief periods of time, into slavering, lupine monsters. These transformations can generally be controlled, though stress serves as a trigger. Lycans living in the United States are the subject of soft discrimination: those infected can’t work in medicine or law enforcement. They’re also required to take the drug Lupex, which prevents shape-shifting but also fogs the mind and is highly addictive.