Hunger Makes the Wolf, by Alex Wells
Synopsis: A space western wherein impoverished miners are horribly exploited until a group of magic-using outlaws on bikes finally stand up for the small community and fight back against the robber-barons.
Disclaimer: I know Alex Wells personally, and really like them. While I try to remain objective in my reviews, I’m not a robot and I may fail to some extent.
Book Review: I should add a second disclaimer here, which is that I dislike Space Westerns. I didn’t bother watching Firefly at first because, even though it was Joss Whedon and I love his work, I couldn’t image even he would make me like a Space Western. Of course I was proven wrong, and soon I was swept up in the adoration of that fantastic show as well. But any Space Western has a tough barrier to entry for me.
This might be a good story, if one likes Space Westerns. There are some very powerful scenes that show what it means to be completely at the mercy of an uncaring corporate entity, and the vile types of humans that take advantage of such power. The villain is extremely creepy, and is probably the best physical/dynamic depiction of a vampire I’ve ever seen. All vampire writers should take note! Also the speech and overall feel was VERY western. I really enjoyed reading what felt like a Sci-Fi book written for/by Applejack. (and yes, I absolutely mean that as a complement.)
But to me, this felt much like Dune Lite. The same desert world, exploitative powers, and magic abilities, but with more motorcycle gangs and less religion. And somewhere along the way, Wells lost my emotional attention. I’m not sure exactly when it happened. This is by no means a bad book. There is no place I can point to and say “This is where it went wrong.” But slowly, over the course of many chapters, I came to lose interest in what I was reading, to the point that it start to feel like a chore.
Perhaps it was the feeling of disconnect due to never being let into the protag’s life in a biker gang, despite it being both her primary social group and her family. Or my own personal quibbles with what felt like an inexpertly handled critique of old school industrialism that doesn’t apply to the modern day. Whatever the case, once I started to wish I didn’t have to keep reading, I stopped reading. Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: Again, I wish to stress that this isn’t a bad book. It just isn’t a great one. While many of our readers finished the book, most of them agreed that at some point it went off the rails, and no one was quite sure what happened. Someone suggested that there was too much old-west flavor, and that started to drown out things. Someone else thought the protag’s dark secret was overplayed and a bit of a let down. A few people were annoyed that the story didn’t really answer the questions it brought up, which is good for drawing interest into a series, but is irritating for those of us who prefer novel-length stories and aren’t looking to read series.
One reader commented that the story has a very traditional old-west or golden-age-SF feel, wherein the masculine hero acts like a white knight and rides in to right wrongs and save the damsel in distress. And simply making the masculine hero a woman doesn’t really change anything about that type of narrative of the masculine-hero. Maybe this was what threw me too? I’m not really a golden age reader.
At any rate, there was some discussion, and so the novel does OK by the book club metric… but it’s not quite enough to make me really want to go out and recommend this enthusiastically to book clubs. So, also, Not Recommended.