(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Strieber has long been interested in animal ethology, especially animal intelligence and communication. That interest surfaces in this novel, which was made into a 1981 motion picture, titled Wolfen, that is very different from the novel. Much of the novel deals with the way that political and human needs get in the way of truth. The deaths of the two policemen in the beginning are attributed to a pack of wild dogs, even though both men were fully armed and had chosen to get out of their vehicle. Later, superiors in the police department make it difficult for the detectives to do their job, as does the district attorney. The detectives are helped by one scientist they contact and by the medical examiner.

Strieber draws parallels between the two detectives and the wolfen. Neff hesitates by instinct when ascending the stairs of an abandoned building. Wilson also instinctively feels an impending attack. He tells Neff to get ready to steal a police motor scooter, as he does. They are chased down the street by a thing with half-human and half-animal features, but they get away. At another point, the father of the wolfen attacks the detectives and fails, losing one of his sons in the attack. The wolfen code does not allow for mistakes, and the mother takes over the pack, leaving the father disgraced.

Strieber has created a kind of superbeing with his wolfen. They can smell the presence of guns. Every one of their senses is hyperannuated....

(The entire section is 493 words.)