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Truth and Fear (The Wolfhound Century) Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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Unlike many sequels, this one pretty much demands familiarity with its predecessor (Wolfhound Century, 2013). The story picks up soon after the end of the first installment. Vissarion Lom, a police detective in the author’s alternate version of Russia, is on the run with Maroussia Shaumian, who possesses the key to opening the Pollandore, a sort of self-contained universe that is breaking apart, threatening to seriously impact this world. Lavrentina Chazia, the head of the Mirgorod secret police (a fictional stand-in for Lavrenty Beria, head of the Russian secret police under Stalin), has her own maniacal plans for the Pollandore. Meanwhile, Josef Kantor, a power-hungry terrorist (and, it seems, Shaumian’s father), puts into play his scheme to gain control of Mirgorod. But a wild card, a fallen angel in a forest thousands of miles away, threatens to bring chaos. Higgins has created a compelling Stalin-era alternate Russia that is populated by sentient animals, fallen angels, and other fantastic elements; amid all that, Lom is a very traditional character, a world-weary cop trying to protect an innocent woman. An ambitious and fascinating novel, at least for those who have read Wolfhound Century. --David Pitt
"Like vintage Mieville or Vandermeer, but with all the violent narrative thriller drive of Fleming at his edgiest. I fell into Wolfhound Century and devoured it in three days."―Richard Morgan
"An amazing, fast-paced story in a fantasy world poised dangerously on the edge of quantum probability, a world where angels war with reality"―Peter F. Hamilton on Wolfhound Century
"A dark new Soviet alternative history with angels...an alternate history that will grab you by the lapels and snap you to attention."―io9.com on Wolfhound Century
"A brilliant exploitation of the power of fantasy: the tender green soul of Russian history set free for uncanny battle with its grey, gunmetal carapace."―Francis Spufford on Wolfhound Century
"[Wolfhound Century] captures its world with absolute conviction. Mirgorod is a city of crumbling infrastructure and frightened people, but it is also a living, breathing, and very much vital place, that lives in its narrow streets and filthy river and in the overwhelming sense of cold that becomes more oppressive every time somebody shivers in daylight or huddles in a doorway for protections. There's brutality and heroism in equal portions."―SciFi Magazine on Wolfhound Century
"I absolutely loved Wolfhound Century. Higgins's world is truly original creation, Russian cosmos and Slavic mythology filtered through steampunk and le Carre. What really captured me was his beautiful style and language: his metaphors and associations flow smoothly like the waters of the Mir, and, like Lom without his angel stone, make you see the world in a new way."―Hannu Rajaniemi on Wolfhound Century
"A compelling Stalin-era alternate Russia ... An ambitious and fascinating novel."―Booklist on Truth and Fear
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If you like first-rate fiction by writers like Polonsky, Weeks, Leckie, Beaulieu, VS Redick, and RJ Bennett as much as I do, you'll enjoy this fast-paced and poetic epic immensely.
The war takes on an increasing importance as Mirgorod (the novel’s version of Saint Petersburg), founded some four hundred years in marshlands by the sea and where four rivers met, and is bombed by the aircraft of the Archipelago and besieged by its armies. The allusions to the long drawn out siege of Leningrad during World War II are rather unmistakable. So are the gruelling resistance of the city, spurred on by its entirely fanatical and totally ruthless commander in chief while all dignitaries of the Vlast have abandoned the capital and retreated to the East, similar to what happened when the German Army reached the outskirts of Moscow at the end of 1941. Another allegory, which is also carried over from the first volume, and which sits alongside the horrors of a totalitarian regime and of war, is the opposition between nature and the de-humanised and huge city with its bleakness and polluting heavy industries.
There is much more to this book than this, however, because it has a number of additional dimensions to it. One is a struggle between the huge and endless forest to the East of the Vlast and a fallen extra-terrestrial Archangel, who, unlike his peers who died when they feel from the skies, has survived for decades, is stranded on Earth and seeks to take control of the Vlast (at least to begin with!) to return to the stars. Mirroring this titanic struggle are a couple of others, with one quite rather awful Laurentina Chazia (the author’s version of Lavrenti Beria, the Head of Stalin’s NKVD, which is called VKBD in the book), Head of the State’s Secret Police, at the heart of it.
Again, the characterization is superb and this extends to the secondary characters with the author having a clear fondness for the destitute surviving aristocrats of the previous regime, before the Vlast came to power. The hero is still the secretive Investigator Vissarion Lom of the Secret Police and a mysterious young woman which has affinities with both the forest and the old regime. However, the heritages that both seem to carry and are rather unaware of (at least in the beginning) are not fully explained in this volume, with this being one of the hints that a third book could be expected (at least I certainly hope so!).
Again also, the author has a rare talent for creating specific atmospheres through vivid descriptions. For instance, the first few chapters paint a rather bleak picture of Mirgorod and mirror some of the ones found in the previous volume. Other powerful descriptions are the bombing of Mirgorod and the siege of the city and the suffering of its population and defenders, more generally, but also the description of the north-eastern part of Russia (East of Mourmansk) and of a secret and huge complex where unknown but essential researches are being carried far from anyone’s eyes.
Just like the first volume, this book is extremely rich in content and well-thought out. Unlike the first one, however, the ending is not entirely abrupt. While it may hint at a third upcoming volume, if only because a number of things remain unexplained, the author has this time taken the trouble to tie up loose ends. A well-deserved five stars.