The novel “The Werewolf Principle” by Clifford D. Simak was published for the first time in 1967.
During a night of bad weather, Andrew Blake finds himself without knowing how in front of Senator Horton’s house. He gets recognized by the man and his daughter because he’s an astronaut or so suggests the fact that he was found in space in a cryogenic capsule. It’s a mysterious event, as Blake doesn’t remember what happened to him.
The Hortons assist Blake, intrigued also because he had one of his blackout episodes during which he doesn’t know what he’s doing. The event is even more mysterious because one of the security men of the Horton home claims to have sighted a wolf, an animal that’s been extinct for a long time.
“The Werewolf Principle” is a novel of Clifford D. Simak’s mature period that represents well this author’s typical themes. Senator Horton seems to represent Simak himself, in the sense that, just like the author, he has a strong bond with his land but at the same time is in favor of at least some innovations. That’s because that’s a type of bond that doesn’t block him in the past and, even if he does without the latest technological innovations at his home, he thinks about the future of humanity.
Initially, it’s difficult to understand the protagonist Andrew Blake’s role in this difficult mix of past and future. That’s because Blake is at the center of the mysteries surrounding his origin and the fact that he sometimes finds himself in places he doesn’t know how he reached.
The reader quickly discovers some of Andrew Blake’s secrets because the novel is developed through various viewpoints that offer revelations about him. However, his full story is discovered only towards the end of the novel amidst surprises and twists.
Andrew Blake’s story also goes through a lot of introspection where he tries to figure out who he really is. His thoughts also include that future humanity with its conflicting tendencies to anchor to their land and to progress technologically, which also leads to expanding into space. It’s a contrast that is seen in the seemingly heterogeneous mix of elements present in the novel.
The technological element is represented in the novel above all by what we could define as intelligent appliances that are supposed to help their owners. They also have a voice which makes them over the top in the sense that if they were human their way of communicating would be considered petulant. Simak doesn’t seem very convinced of the goodness of appliances of this type.
At the other extreme, the author inserts elements more typical of fantasy and horror stories. First, there’s the werewolf principle of the title, although it’s used in a way that’s definitely science fiction, as it has a pseudo-scientific basis. There are also the Brownies, aliens who apparently don’t use technology and look like creatures out of folklore.
All of this is connected in one way or another with Andrew Blake’s personal story. “The Werewolf Principle” isn’t an action novel but there’s a certain tension generated by what happens to the protagonist with the mystery surrounding his blackouts. If you like introspective stories that also concern the future of humanity, I recommend reading it.