Book Review: Hunger Makes the Wolf
By Alex Wells
This novel took me by surprise! It’s a sci-fi that seamlessly blends in Western and frontier elements with its technology, as well as a smattering of elemental magic (explained as a “contamination”) and a “screw the man” ideology. It’s a lot of fun!
Hob finds her boss’ brother’s body in the sand dunes of the planet called Tanegawa’s World. She is part of a mercenary band/motorcycle group and she has a massive chip on her shoulder. The story follows her mission to discover who killed the man and, eventually, a rebellion against the corporate forces holding the working population down.
The setting is intriguing from the start – a colonized world controlled by a greedy and unscrupulous company. The company manages the production sectors/towns of the world by keeping them impoverished and almost pre-industrial in technology. I’m not going to explain too much, because learning about the world is so much fun. Every time you encounter something that seems inexplicable, an explanation follows quite quickly.
There are some elements that are fantastical (the contamination, for one), but everything else in the story is so much fun you accept it as plausible.
I loved the characters. Hob and Mag are two very different women who are strong in their own ways. I loved how Hob is a bad-ass, takes-no-crap, tough-as-nail young woman, but she’s not the only woman we get. Instead, we’re also given Mag, whom you initially believe is a sheltered weakling, but quickly shows herself to be resourceful and determined. Both women evolve as the story grows.
The other characters – Nick, Coyote, Shinge, Geri and Freki, and the Bone Collector were likeable, different men who also change as the story progresses.
I loved all the symbolic names in the story. A “Hob” is a fairy/sprite in old English and Geri and Freki are Odin’s dogs in Norse mythology. I’m sure there were other symbolic names I missed.
The antagonist is vague and not present for most of the story, but rather than lessen the tension or make the story less harrowing, it works very well. The creepy lack of clear motivation from the Weatherman are explained as the story goes, which runs in tandem with Hob’s story. It’s quite masterful, really, how we learn very little about the Weatherman but what we do know strengthens the plot. It was nice to not have an overt antagonist.
The brief sexual tension between some of the characters and others I also appreciated.
This novel was kind of perfect, once you overlooked small things:
1. How the “magic” functions – it’s not really explained.
2. Hob and the miners speak in this old-time, Western slang, which, while it works, seems anachronistic a times (I loved it regardless).
3. Hob’s backstory as a child is really glossed over.
Anyway, 5 stars. I haven’t read into the wee hours of the night on a work night in a long time, but this book did it.