Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Benjamin Percy's blog tour for the paperback release of his horror novel, Red Moon. After its release in May 2013, it received tons of positive reviews, including from Stephen King who called it a "werewolf epic". I'm excited to provide you with an excerpt from this amazing book that was on Publishers Weekly and NPR's best books of 2013 lists.
An Excerpt from Red Moon
When she came home, her nose pink and dripping from the cold, she found her mother sitting on the couch and her father pacing in front of the fireplace, the mouth of it crackling and spitting with fire. She could tell she had interrupted a conversation. The two of them stared at her, her father with his mouth open, his hand raised midgesture. The flames in the fireplace snapped and bent sideways against the wind and then licked their way upright when she closed the door. “What?” she said.
Her mother is slender and sharp edged, her graying hair cut short around a rectangular face. That morning she was wearing jeans and a red hooded sweatshirt with a UW Badger imprinted on its breast. Her legs were crossed and moving like scissors. “Something has happened,” she said and looked to her husband to explain.
Claire’s father sometimes appeared mismatched next to his wife, oversize and always moving, shouting, sometimes with anger but more often with enthusiasm punctuated by throaty laughter. He is a thickly built man, broad shouldered and big gutted, but with a kind face that looks like a child’s, only creased around its edges like a photograph lost at the bottom of a drawer. He works independently as a carpenter—his shed built onto the back of their garage—and his fingernails are always bruised and his hair always carries wood shavings in it like dandruff.
He told her, in a gruff, halting way, about the attacks. The three planes. One had crashed outside of Denver, a fiery smear in a wheat field. The other two had landed, in Portland and Boston, the pilots locked safely in the cockpit, but with only one passenger still alive, on Flight 373, a boy, a teenager not yet identified. No one knew much else.
Her parents took her to the kitchen, where the TV was muted, the same footage cycling over and over, a faraway shot of a plane parked on a runway surrounded by emergency vehicles flashing their lights. The red banner along the bottom of the screen read that nationwide all flights had been grounded, that a lycan terrorist cell was suspected, and that the president promised a swift and severe response.
Her parents stood to either side of her, studying her, waiting for her to respond.
She understood how awful this was, but it felt so distant and unreal, like a film, someone else’s nightmare, that she had difficulty processing it emotionally. She could only say, “That’s terrible,” like an actor trying out a line. Her father’s face hardened. He had told her before—once when she said she didn’t feel like visiting her grandfather in hospice—that she was empathy proof. “Typical teenager,” he had said, and she had hated him for it.
She could tell he was thinking the same thing now. A blush crept up his throat like a rash.
“Why are you so upset?” she said. “I mean, I get it—it’s horrible that these people died—but you’re acting like you killed them or something.”
Her parents shared a look full of meaning unavailable to her.
She retreated to her room for the rest of the afternoon, yelling down once, leaning over the railing, asking her mother if she was going to make dinner or what? Her mother had spoken so quietly, Claire barely caught her response: “I’m not hungry.”
She could hear the television at times, and then, when it fell silent, her father’s voice as he spoke on the phone, whispering harshly into the receiver.
Not long ago, he came to her room. Normally he just barged in with a “Hello, hello,” but tonight he knocked and waited.
She cracked the door open and said through the crack, “What?” her hand on the knob.
He took a step forward and then back, thinking better of it, clearing his throat and asking if he might come in. He wanted to talk to her about something.
She sighed and plopped onto the bed and he wandered around as if trying to decide where to sit, before joining her, his weight depressing the mattress another few inches and making her lean toward him. He had a pensive look on his face and a white envelope pinched between his fingers that he handed to her.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe nothing. But if something does happen, I want you to open this.” She blew out a sigh. “Don’t be so dramatic.” She took the envelope and tossed it, and it twirled like a broken-winged bird onto her desk. Her father kept his eyes on it. He wouldn’t look at her. She noticed a wood chip tangled in the hair above his ear and she plucked it out and he absently touched the place it had been.
“Dad,” she said, and he said, “Yeah?”
She couldn’t believe that anyone would care about them. They were boring. They lived in the middle of nowhere. They hadn’t done anything to anyone. “You think they’re going to—what?—like, put every lycan in the country in jail? This has nothing to do with us.”
He opened his hands and stared at them as if the answer might lie in the rough design of his palms. “There are things you don’t know.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He smiled sadly, throwing an arm around her and drawing her close. Her nose filled with the smells of sap and Old Spice. “I’m probably worrying for no reason. But hey, better safe than sorry.”
Her mother’s voice called from downstairs. “Howard? Your phone is buzzing.”
“Yeah,” he yelled. “Coming.” He stood and the bed sprang back into its shape, the coils of the box spring creaking with relief. He walked to the desk and laid one of his square-tipped fingers on the envelope and tapped it twice. “Indulge me, okay?”
Now Claire shoves aside her college catalogues and purses her lips and picks up the envelope, turning it over, testing its weight with the tips of her fingers. She doesn’t know if there is money in it. Or a letter. Or both. She doesn’t know whether she should open it now, or if not now, then when? How will she know?
Nor does she know what’s happening outside right this minute, as the small brigade of vehicles—the armored vans, the black sedans with government plates—appears at the end of her block with their headlights off. She lives in a wooded neighborhood, each house set back on a half-acre lot. There are no streetlights, no sidewalks. The vehicles purr to a stop. Their doors swing open but do not close. Any noise that might bring Claire to the window—the stomp of boots along the asphalt, the clatter of assault rifles and ammunition clips—is muffled by the steady snowfall, a white shroud thrown over the night.
She doesn’t know about the Tall Man—in the black suit and black necktie, his skull as hairless as a stone—who stands next to his black Lincoln Town Car. She doesn’t know that he has his hands tucked into his pockets or that the snow is melting against his scalp and dripping down his face or that he is smiling slightly.
She doesn’t know that her father and mother are sitting at the kitchen table, drinking their way through a bottle of Merlot, not holding but squeezing each other’s hands in reassurance as they watch CNN, the coverage of what the president called “a coordinated terror attack directed at the heart of America.”
So she doesn’t know that, when the front door kicks open, splintering along its hinges, her father is holding the remote in his hand, a long black remote that could be mistaken for a weapon.
She doesn’t know that he stands up so suddenly his chair tips over and clatters to the
floor, that he screams, “No,” and holds out his hand, the hand gripping the remote, and points it at the men as they come rushing through the entryway, the dark rectangle of night, with snow fluttering around them like damp shredded paper.
She only knows—when she hears the crash, the screams, the rattle of gunfire—that she must run.
Grand Central Publishing
Paperback release January 14, 2014
Horror / Werewolves
They live among us.
They are our neighbors, our mothers, our lovers.
When government agents kick down Claire Forrester's front door and murder her parents, Claire realizes just how different she is. Patrick Gamble was nothing special until the day he got on a plane and hours later stepped off it, the only passenger left alive, a hero. Chase Williams has sworn to protect the people of the United States from the menace in their midst, but he is becoming the very thing he has promised to destroy. So far, the threat has been controlled by laws and violence and drugs. But the night of the red moon is coming, when an unrecognizable world will emerge...and the battle for humanity will begin.
About Benjamin Percy:
Benjamin Percy is the author of two novels, Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, May 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories,Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf Press, 2007) and The Language of Elk (Grand Central/Hachette, 2012; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006). His fiction and nonfiction have been read on National Public Radio, performed at Symphony Space, and published by Esquire (where he is a contributing editor), GQ, Time, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and Tin House. His honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Writers’ Award, two Pushcart Prizes, the Plimpton Prize, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories and Best American Comics. He is currently at work on the screenplay adaptation of The Wilding for filmmaker Tanya Wexler (Hysteria) and on a novel called The Dead Lands (forthcoming from Grand Central/Hachette).He has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is currently the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.