Wednesday, August 23, 2017

20. Wolf and Iron by Gordon R. Dickson

I have been looking for this book for years.  I can't even remember how it came to be added to my list, but I know that Dickson is prolific and you can always find his books at used bookstores. There is usually a good length of shelf with just his books and they always gave me hope.  Time and after time, I would have a flash of hope seeing his name (most of the books on my list you can't even find the author) and then another confirmation that no Wolf and Iron was not there.  I finally did find it in Victoria earlier this summer.  I still don't get why it is so hard to find, it's one of those late 80s early 90s paperbacks that they usually printed a ton of. 

Once I read the blurb to remind myself of why I was interested in it, I knew that the reasons were still valid for it to be on my list. It's the story of a lone man, a social scientist who predicted the global chaos that came (but badly underestimated the speed and severity of it), fled from his university town and now travelling across America to get to his brother's Ranch in the Rockies.  The apocalypse in this case is purely social.  Some minor bank collapses trigger a global run which then causes all of modern society to fall apart and humans to devolve into a survivalist mode.  America is a bit like the wild west, except degenerating and more violent and xenophobic.  Other humans are the greatest danger, in a landscape with many other basic dangers.

Early on, Jeebee encounters a wolf and they flee together from a trading encounter gone bad.  He and the wolf slowly develop a relationship as he makes his way across the country and slowly transforms himself from thinking, civilized man to instinctive, survivalist man.  This book is a nerd's dream.  It's all about how using your brains, developing skills and organizing and gaining equipment.  It's funny because the book is ostensibly about him trying to figure out how to be a partner with this wolf, but the real challenge is other humans.  The details and execution of his transformation are really quite enjoyable, almost delicious to PA nerds like myself.  The last quarter devolves into a survivalist domestic nerd fantasy which though a bit pat, does nothing to weaken the pleasure of the first three quarters.  This one is staying on my shelves and it should be included in any list of significant post-apocalyptic fiction.

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