Tuesday, May 26, 2015
The Call of the Wild Werewolf by Jack London and Carl Waters
Not enough deviation in this derivation
As a frequent reviewer on Amazon, authors or their representatives sometimes ask me to review their books in exchange for a free copy. This is the first time I’ve ever said yes. I am an enthusiast of all things related to the great American author Jack London, so when Carl Waters’s 2015 book The Call of the Wild Werewolf was brought to my attention, it was difficult to resist. Unfortunately, it has left me wishing I had politely declined.
In London’s original 1903 novel The Call of the Wild, a dog named Buck is kidnapped from Judge Miller’s California ranch and impressed into service as a sled dog in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. In Waters’s variation on the tale, Buck is the son of Judge Miller. He is likewise kidnapped, and then transformed into a dog by the bite of a werewolf. This anthropomorphizing of Buck is what intrigued me about The Call of the Wild Werewolf, as it seemed like a premise full of possibilities. Once Buck becomes a dog, however, he seems to lose most of his human intelligence and behaves exactly like London’s Buck. It’s unclear what the point was of making this Buck human in the first place, since he’s almost an exact duplicate of his predecessor.
The authors of this novel are listed as Jack London and Carl Waters, and for a good reason. For the vast majority of the book, Waters makes almost no alterations to London’s original text, other than to substitute the word “werewolf” for instances of “wolf” or “dog.” There’s one other change later in the book, involving the substitution of one letter, but I won’t give it away because it’s the only thing that could possibly qualify as a spoiler in this otherwise familiar story. Despite the title, Waters never really explores the werewolf idea. In the book’s second paragraph, we learn that a sort of vampire mafia is responsible for kidnapping humans and turning them into work dogs. What sort of horrific deed do these vampires require of their enslaved werewolf subjects? Delivering the mail! Just like in London’s book!
I wish I could use one of those plagiarism detection software programs to compare the two texts and see how identical they are. I bet at least 95% of this book is London’s original text. Of course, Waters is not a plagiarist and has done no wrong. He can do what he wants with London’s work because it’s in the public domain. But what is the point of publishing a work that contains so little original content? Waters doesn’t fundamentally alter the plot or meaning of London’s original work, and the use of the word “werewolf” in itself is not entertaining. If you want to read a five-star book, read the original The Call of the Wild. Waters’s slight variations to the text are not worth your time, money, or notice.
What makes this derivation even more unnecessary is the fact that someone’s already done a mash-up of Jack London and werewolves, and to far better effect. The Secret Journeys of Jack London is a series of young adult novels by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon in which a young London encounters monsters and paranormal phenomena in the Klondike. These books certainly aren’t masterpieces, but at least they’re original. The first volume, subtitled The Wild, is really pretty good and pays clever homage to London’s life and literature. I don’t recommend them wholeheartedly, but The Secret Journeys are certainly more readworthy than The Call of the Wild Werewolf.
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