Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wolf And Iron Review


Wolf And Iron
by Gordon R. Dickson

Review By: Neil Richard

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The years of waiting are over. I’ve found my own McGuffin. Wolf And Iron is at last in my hands and on my book shelf.

What a waste.

I feel great that I’ve finally found this book. I first (and last) read it some years ago and enjoyed it. Apparently my memories have been altered or my reading preferences have changed greatly. This time, it wasn’t so enjoyable. How bad? After years of searching for this book, it took me months to read it.

The basic story centers around a post-Collapse America and one man’s journey to find his brother and escape the evils roaming the lands. The Collapse is never really fleshed-out enough to describe, but it’s an obvious breakdown of the social, economic, and technological world. What results is the banding of people in local areas to become protective of their own and cautious (or combative) towards outsiders.

Enter the nerdy, social scientist who is in one of these little towns studying people. After being chased out of town by the locals, he heads across country to find his brother’s ranch, some hundreds of miles away. Along the way he meets with some bad townies, picks up a wolf as a traveling partner, and meets up with a nice traveling salesman (and his daughter). He falls in love with the daughter before heading out on his own again to find his brother’s ranch. Along the way he becomes more attached to Wolf (his traveling companion’s very original name) and is even attacked by a bear. After the bear attack he mends up well enough to hole up in a makeshift cave.

While out hunting, he finds Merry (the salesman’s daughter) barely alive after traveling on foot for weeks after being attacked. Merry and the nerd (Jeebee) hole up for winter in the cave and make it their home. A baby, Paul, arrives later in good health. And we finish with another bear attack (this one Jeebee won), more blacksmithing, and the eventual decision to not search for the ranch anymore.

While the premise of the story is quite interesting, the overall action was quite drawn out and slow making it hard to keep interest. I was often reminded of Robinson Crusoe and how long the book was compared to how few interesting passages there were. I was often distracted (and sometimes disgusted) at how slow the book was. The forward (by a university professor) to the book did provide some light on a possible reason for this. Dickson apparently wrote this as a short story before spending time doing research and making it a novel. According to the professor, Dickson’s research on wolf behavior was quite intense and his depictions of wolves were very realistic. That, I don’t doubt.

But now I doubt my reasons for enjoying this book the first time. Jeebee’s travels across the country had some very interesting moments and very realistic hardships. But I think a lot was hardly touched that should have been (like how to make a shelter in the wilderness and where to use the bathroom). The interaction between Wolf and Jeebee was quite emotional at times (both positive and negative emotions) and I got a good feel for their relationship.

I’m sorry to say I was disappointed in this book after all these years of waiting. I think I built up my expectations a little too much and maybe didn’t remember everything I should have about the first reading.

In the end, it was great to find this book again and read it. While it took some time to finish it, I still enjoyed it (to a point). I think it would have better served the reader if the story was kept a short story instead of a novel. By cutting the boring stuff, it could have fit as a comfortable novella, maybe even making a great addition to an anthology on wolves.

The review is also available in Word and PDF.

Neil@tk42one.com
© 2006 TK42ONE.com Productions

1 comment:

Steve said...

I'd give this about a 2.5 out of 10, and I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic novels.

Hmm... maybe that's the reason I was so critical.