Like Westerns? Like science fiction? Like badass mercenary heroines who dispense justice from the back of a motorcycle while manipulating fire and swearing like a sailor? Then do I have a book for you!
To be honest, had it not been highly recommended, I probably would not have picked up Alex Wells’ debut novel, Hunger Makes the Wolf. Despite coming from solid publisher Angry Robot, it had the look of pulp fiction taking itself way too seriously. Additionally, about midway through the first chapter I became mightily confused about what the heck was going on, to the point where I checked online to make sure I wasn’t reading the second book in a series, because it really felt like I had missed some important exposition somewhere.
Luckily, I held on past those few pages, and was rewarded with a rollicking adventure that was both familiar and surprisingly fresh, cheeky and, perhaps most importantly, involving. The action, rather than being simplistic and clichéd, was layered and complex. It hit the perfect mix of putting me on familiar ground but throwing in some major innovations without getting caught up in trying to do too much, or having too many moving parts.
The narrative revolves around Hob Ravani – the gun totin’, cigarette smokin’, motorcycle ridin’ badass mentioned before. She came to the planet known as Tanegawa’s World as a child, when she was abandoned by a rift ship owned by the powerful TransRifts corporation. A penniless orphan, Hob was caught trying to pick the pocket of Nick Ravani, who saw something of himself in the spitfire of a girl and took her to join his mercenary biker troop known as the Ghost Wolves.
Now, ten years later, Hob has been thriving in the frontier setting – not that there hadn’t been some setbacks in her life, such as losing an eye (just like Old Nick), and burning bridges from her past due to her quick temper and her stubbornness. Hob also is, well, different; she has a touch of witchiness to her – also just like Old Nick. But she’s back in the fold, now, and on the trail of the folks who murdered Old Nick’s brother.
Incorporating elements of the old West, a frontier mining town and its erstwhile citizens, supernatural beings (the character of the Bone Collector is one of the most intriguing I’ve seen in a while, and the Weatherman is a super chilling boogeyman), corporate malfeasance and social manipulation, spaceships, supernatural abilities, a band of brother ethos, and the aforementioned motorcycles and mayhem, Hunger Makes the Wolf delivers a heckuva lot more than it may seem to promise. It’s good, old fashioned, new fangled entertainment that goes down easy and delivers enough kick to make you want to come back for more.