Tuesday, January 19, 2010

3. The Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon

Doc favourably reviewed this book and kindly lent it to me when I expressed interest in it. It was disturbingly fat considering my poor reading progress last year, but I decided to jump in, recognizing that if done well, it should be a page-turner. I was a bit dismayed at the very beginning, because the prose was written in that American 80s best-seller style, which is just a bit too florid and obvious (it's the kind of book where every sexual encounter ends in a perfect simultaneous orgasm). Because it is trying to be British in style and the beginning takes place in Britain (towards whose genre writers I have a strong bias), this weakness was really pronounced. I was particularly dismayed to see someone driving a Ford around in northern Wales at the height of WWII.

Fortunately, there is a very strong story here and lots of good action and once it gets going, it really gets going. It has two storylines going on simultaneously, the hero's mission to find out a secret Nazi plot that will undermine D-Day and his own upbringing as a werewolf in a Russian forest. Both storylines are equally engaging and you can't wait to find out next. The WWII espionage story has the best Nazi badguys I've read in a while. It reminded me a lot of Inglorious Basterds, though perhaps even less subtle and with the werewolf element (a huge advantage if you ever have to go over enemy lines, believe me). The werewolf story is really cool as well, as the author put in a lot of thought about how such a tribe would survive and what they would be like. He portrays the werewolf behaviour using much more biology than we usually get, with them hunting, when in wolf form, small prey for food and pissing to mark their territory. He also uses his excellent scent in human form to help with his espionage, which is quite cool as well.

Very entertaining. I do agree with Doc that it went on a bit long near the end, but really it was such a fun read, with some cool ideas and kickass action, that I've utterly forgiven the florid prose and lack of subtlety. Had I read this when I was 15, I would have gone out and hunted down the rest of this guy's books for sure. As it is, I'll probably keep on the lookout.


meezly said...

I heard his 1981 novel "They Thirst" is very similar in action-packed storyline, except it's about vampires taking over L.A.

tell your friends to keep an eye on this one, as it's been kept out of print by McCammon. apparently he thinks his earlier works aren't up to par with his more recent stuff.

Doc said...

Your comments about the "simultaneous orgasm" made me laugh out loud. This book does indeed have its flaws, but I'm glad that you found the good parts too. I particularly liked the wolf pack in Russia part of the story and the general quirkiness of having a werewolf operative in WWII. I recently read Necroscope, by Brian Lumley, and it is a similar "Weird War II" page turner.