This story of violent national convulsions plays out over more than 500 pages — such bloating is one of the darker symptoms of Stephen King’s children. But the narrative never drags, never even has a chance. Percy rotates constantly through half a dozen story lines, lingering over each no more than a few pages at a time. His prose is smart and brisk and often poetic, but as political allegory, “Red Moon” has all the subtlety of a canine ripping your face off. The allusions to Sept. 11, Islamofascism, Iraq, homophobia, cochlear implants, anti-Semitism, AIDS, racism, the ’60s, the Weather Underground — they all howl at us. To what end? Aside from little sparks of recognition, replacing a variety of real contemporary causes with imaginary werewolf causes doesn’t offer a particularly articulate critique of modern America. The fangs of this satire are dull, its instincts far too domesticated. Percy has mashed up Muslims, gays, Jews and blacks to make little werewolf-shaped McNuggets of social commentary that have no taste. (It’s enough to make one mourn again the too-early death in 2006 of Octavia Butler, whose science fiction and horror explored racial themes in the most complex and unsettling ways.)
Fortunately, “Red Moon” usually stays focused on two appealing young characters: Claire is a high school lycan whose skin is “the softest gray-white imaginable, as if she had been soaking for years in a bath of moonlight.” She has no idea her parents were such radicals until a demonic government agent murders them in the opening pages and sets her running for her life. Soon, she crosses paths with Patrick, a pure-hearted teen determined to follow his soldier-father and fight terrorists in the Lupine Republic. You can’t help but root for these two love-dogs: They’re like Romeo and Juliet with fur and deadly halitosis.