In Review: Wolves
Published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd., January 16, 2014. Paperback of 295 pages at $24.99.
Note: I read a preview ebook and anything could be changed by the time of publication.
The cover: What a tremendous cover! A disturbingly threatening image of a wolf with the silhouette of an individual providing the space between the snout and the throat. I love the red eye of the beast and the genius of the man placed in the image. It makes this unknown person seem to be the creator of this animal. The illustration was done by Jefrey Alan Love and the cover designed by Nick May. Having read the book and looking again at this cover, it couldn’t have been more apt. Overall grade: A+
The premise: From Orion’s website: “The new novel from Simon Ings is a story that balances on the knife blade of a new technology. Augmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else. Ings takes the satire and mordant satirical view of J.G. Ballard and propels it into the 21st century. Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them. A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past. A secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder. This is no dry analysis of how a technology might change us, it is a terrifying thriller, a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner.” I’m all for technology that gets out of control in novels, but how it relates to wolves has my curiosity piqued. The mystery of the missing mother seems to be icing on the cake. Overall grade: A
The characters: The main protagonist is Conrad and we get to see his entire life at different points in the novel. His childhood is tough due to where he lives and the eccentricities of his mother. His only friend is Michel, who even at a young age believes the world is coming close to end times. Conrad’s father is a tinker and he creates a vest that allows blind war veterans to see. This technology evolves exponentially as the book progresses. His mother, leaving the family, yet again, disappears, leaving young Conrad in a terrible state. Sadly, a reveal makes this disappearance doubly worse. By their twenties Conrad and Michel have gone in different directions, and it is their reconnection that begins their eventual change. Michel’s girlfriend is Hanna, someone completely wrong and right for Conrad and the strongest female in the book. She appears occasionally, but when she does it’s strong stuff! Ralf is a dynamic character full of ideas, but obviously needs tech-savvy people to make they happen. Imagine Steve Jobs with an unlimited bank account and the means to get money from others. I was riveted by this character. Bryon Vaux is the man that Ralf is partnered with and has a history that changes the reader’s understanding of some characters. I wondered why Conrad was the person he was in the first half of the novel, but Ings nicely reveals his past, and by the end I had the lead pegged, though I never saw his ultimate fate. It’s not what anyone would expect! Overall grade: A
The settings: There is the city of Conrad’s youth which could be in any moderate sized city anywhere in the world, the business that he and Ralf work for, and the less than perfect home of Michel and Hanna. All are described well, but don’t contribute too much the overall impact of the novel. Overall grade: B
The action: This is a slow burn for action. The first half of the book is a straightforward drama with slight science fiction elements. By the end of the book, the technology is doing some amazing things and the characters’ pasts really come forward. It was slow going but then I was completely sucked into the book. This is not a laser toting, alien invasion action novel, but more of a real look into how technology will change society, for good or worse. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: It could have gone on longer and I would have been happy. As it stands, Conrad’s tale and the mystery within in are told completely. Overall grade: A
The final line: A slow start that had me wondering where the book was going but it became a moving tale of the movers and shakers of technology. You’ll wonder if the people in charge of technology creation have control over their own lives. Overall grade: A
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and six years as a comic book reviewer for TrekWeb. He’s taught 8th graders English for 19 years, 9th graders for 1, and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.