Monday, April 26, 2010
Book Review: Way of the Wolf by EE Knight (Audio Book)
Post-apocalyptic science fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres. Finding a good fantasy equivalent can sometimes be difficult, as it usually gets classified as science fiction. E.E. Knight’s Way of the Wolf has vampires and magic, and clearly falls into the category of fantasy. It also is about a post-nuclear United States with aliens, and scattered communities of humanity fighting for survival. It’s a strange mix, but it all works out well.
In the 2020’s a series of natural disasters struck earth, followed by a disease that caused the infected to go insane and die. The population of the earth was decimated. Shortly after these events, the Kurians, a race of magical beings, appeared and assumed control over the planet. The Kurians feed off the life force of humans (and others), and they use a group of really tough critters (Reapers) to do their collecting. These are the vampires of the story. Our protagonist, David Valentine, is a part of an elite group of human rebels called the Wolves. With their senses magically enhanced, they are the Kurians’ and Reapers’ worst nightmare. Way of the Wolf follows David through his early and present encounters with the Kurian oppressors.
As you can see by my summary, the plot and background is fairly simple at a glance. But as you follow David in his travels, you begin to peel back the onion and understand that there are more complex issues at play. I was expecting an action-packed romp of “Mad Max the Vampire Hunter,” and in a lot of ways that is what I got. On the other hand I wasn’t expecting the characters in Way of the Wolf to be quite like they were. The hero is a rather quiet and well-read fellow, choosing to lead through example rather than aggressiveness. He is not the gung-ho type and knows exactly when he should run rather than stand and fight. The female characters are not your typical choices in post-apocalyptic fiction either. Typically you would have a Mary Sue type with milk-white skin and the undying need for a strong man… or a butchy bullet-chewing she-warrior. E.E. Knight places his female characters squarely in between the two stereotypes. They are feminine but still tough, as you would expect from anyone living in their world.
I listened to Way of the Wolf on audio book CD from Brilliance Audio. It was read to me by Christian Rummel who is a rather prolific voice talent, and for good reason: he’s awesome. Seriously, how this man goes from gritty cigar chomping old veteran to sweet sensual Wisconsin beauty is beyond me. “Wisconsin beauty? That specific?” Yes dear readers, the man has his Northern/Midwestern accents down to an art form. If I ever win the lottery I will personally hire him to come to my house and read to me. I may even have him read Louisa May Alcott simply because it would be coolest rendition of Little Women known to mankind.
Overall, I loved the book and its audio adaptation. Those of you who straddle the line between fantasy and sci-fi will find a nice home in Way of the Wolf. It’s an action-filled, somewhat male-centric perspective of life under alien vampire overlords. Christian Rummel was a perfect fit to read the audio version, and I look forward to listening to/reading the rest of them. I have yet again been hooked into another great series!
You can also learn more about EE Knight’s books at the Fantasyliterature EE Knight page