About the Werewolves in The Last Colony
Posted on July 15, 2007 Posted by John Scalzi 2 Comments
WARNING: The following entry contains spoilers for The Last Colony and therefore I strongly suggest that anyone who has not read the novel skip this entry, as I discuss a question I keep getting asked about the “werewolves” in the book. I am putting the question behind the cut, but again, for anyone who has not read the book and doesn’t want part of it spoiled, read no further. Okay?
All right then, here we go:
The question I keep getting asked about the werewolves is “what happens to them?” They appear to do their thing in chapter seven, and then disappear, not to be heard from in the rest of the book. Some people have seen this as sloppy writing on my part. This pains me, of course, because I thought I had sufficiently explained them. But apparently for a non-trivial number of readers I did not, so here’s the scoop.
Where are the werewolves? They’re following the fantie herds. In several places in the book I note that the fanties — large animals that look somewhat but not entirely like elephants — are migratory creatures: They’re seen at a distance in chapter six as they trundle by the colony on their way through to somewhere else (presumably a summer resting ground) and then, most of a Roanoke year later, they’re wandering by again.
During the first pass-by of the fanties, Jane Sagan discovers a large hole underneath one of the containers that forms the outside wall of the settler village; this is seemingly explained when Jane Sagan brings in a “yote” — a predator the size of a large dog — that was found later sniffing around that hole. However, Jane has her doubts that a yote was large enough to make that hole.
She’s correct; it was the werewolves who did it, but who then moved on as the fanties moved. The werewolves, who are at the hunter-gatherer stage of civilization, follow their main food source, much as some of the native american plains dwellers would follow the buffalo. When the fanties came back through, the werewolves came with them, setting up the confrontation.
After the confrontation, two things happened: one, the fanties moved on again, taking the werewolves with them; two, the events in the second half of the book took place in a rather compressed space in time, which meant neither the fanties nor the werewolves would have had a chance to come around again.
In the book, I made at least a couple of notations that the werewolves were following the herds; I thought this would be sufficient to explain why they were suddenly there and why (and how) they would equally suddenly not be there. But again, if I had made it totally clear, I wouldn’t be getting all these questions about them. The questions are coming from really smart people who I know personally, too, so I can’t even allow myself the fiction that it’s just the dumb readers who don’t get it. It’s probably a flaw in the writing.
The good news here is a fix could be fairly simple: just a couple of lines of dialogue to make mention the fanties were moving on, and the werewolves too, and would probably be back in a year’s time. I may try to get that added to the paperback edition. In the meantime, however: That’s the explanation.
Update 4/20/09: What’s up with the werewolves is rather more clearly explained in Zoe’s Tale.
Just finished the trilogy, and I’m waiting for Zoe’s Tale. The werewolves bothered me too. They appeared and had the tangential role of tightening discipline in the colony at a time when it was needed, but they were a very pregnant way of doing that. Until I read your explanation, I suspected that you put them in simply to pick them up in a later book, but they were just too salient to be allowed simply to migrate off. Too promising a subplot that was left unfulfilled. I’m glad to read that you’ve picked them up again.
My son-in-law lent me the first book shortly before Christmas. I read it after everyone went home and promptly went to B&N and bought the other two. That doesn’t happen to me often.
I didn’t miss the migration part for the Fanties and the fact that the Werewolfs went with them, however the time line of when Eser attached was somewhat unclear so I was expecting the Fanties to have returned. You had Perry saying he had a plan and I felt the union of the colonist and the werewolfs would have made a team. Oh well maybe next time.