Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Wolf Age

One thing I'll say for James Enge is that he isn't one of those writers who writes the same book over and over. His second novel about Morlock the Maker, This Crooked Way, isn't much like his first, Blood of Ambrose, and the third isn't much like the other two. Oddly enough, while reading the first part of his new one, The Wolf Age, I was reminded of Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you've read much of Burroughs' Mars and Venus stuff, or even the Pellucidar books, you may recall how whenever the hero discovers a new civilization he's usually taken prisoner and learns the civilization's language, customs, and such while he's incarcerated. The first third of The Wolf Age is a lot like that. The wandering Morlock is captured by a race of werewolves and held prisoner for several months. During that time he learns to speak the language, picks up a lot of the local customs, and even gains a certain amount of respect, even as John Carter did while a prisoner of the Tharks in ERB's A Princess of Mars.
As the book progresses, Enge spends as much time with the werewolves as he does with Morlock, so you learn all about their culture, which is well realized and very in depth. Werewolf class system. Werewolf politics. (Elections are not pretty.) Werewolf romance. Werewolf language. (They have two. One language for when they're in human form and one for wolf form.) You name it. Enge works hard, not so much at world building (though he's good at that) but character building. You learn about the werewolf civilization by watching the werewolves. Meanwhile Morlock, the centuries old maker (A maker is a magic user who makes things. You'll just have to read it.) engages in bloody battles, loses his second sight, and briefly goes mad.
Enge's Morlock stories are hard to describe. I've yet to read a 'typical' one. Some approach Jack Vance in their strangeness and use of odd magical abilities. Then in the next we're hip deep in Robert E. Howard land as Morlock wades into battle against man and/or monsters. He is a magic user, but if you're looking for Gandalf, Morlock Ambrosius is not your boy. He'll walk away from a fight if he can, but he knows how to use a sword and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. He's not a do gooder, but he has his own sense of honor and he'll go far to uphold it. A complex and interesting character.
As I noted in my review of This Crooked Way, Enge's imagination is formidable. His plots twist in unexpected directions and he seems to be endlessly inventive, tossing out interesting and just plain weird ideas left and right. Best yet, he seems to be getting better as he goes. The Wolf Age is a deeper and richer book than the two that preceded it. Can't wait to see what Enge does next.

2 comments:

lk said...

I will check it out! I got a Nook with credit card points, and enjoying it. Quite easy to read the text, though moving around in the book is clunky.

lk said...

Hmm, surprisingly this doesn't seem to be available as an ebook. I'll look for it in print.