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Wolfhound Century (The Wolfhound Century) Paperback – February 4, 2014
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"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
"Sentient water, censored artists, mechanical constructs, old-fashioned detective work, and the secret police are all woven together in this rich and fascinating tapestry."―Publishers Weekly
"I absolutely loved WOLFHOUND CENTURY. Higgins's world is a truly original creation, Russian cosmism 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."
"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 flat.Peter Higgins is a great discovery, a gifted writer with a route map to some fascinating new dark corners of the imagination, and a fine addition to the contemporary fantasy canon."
"A dark new Soviet alternate history with angels... an alternate history that will grab you by the lapels and snap you to attention."―i09.com
"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
About the Author
Peter Higgins read English at Oxford and was Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College before joining the Civil Service. He began writing fantasy and SF stories in 2006 and his work has appeared in Fantasy: Best of the Year 2007 and Best New Fantasy 2. He has been published by Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy Magazine and Zahir. His short story "Listening for Submarines" was translated and published by the St. Petersburg-based literary magazine Esli. He is married with three children and lives in South Wales.
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Once folks of Western extraction see the winged men, call them angels, then I guess the only other thing that can be extrapolated is that Heaven exists and these angels are no longer residents.
Assume that were the case, then imagine how messed up would be the country that had to go through that. Bombarded by dead angel flesh, which doesn't decay like human flesh, would a country grow to see itself as having a special relationship with the creator? According to Peter Higgins in Wolfhound Century, yeah it would.
And that's the least of this country's problems.
Positing a very different country that is (somewhat) reminiscent of Communist-era Soviet Union, Higgins takes us into a far stranger world where people who act differently are given implanted discs of angel flesh to help them behave. There are powers and principalities living in the old forest that do not like those newcomers called humans. And, worst of all, there might be a living angel somewhere nearby that is very, very angry.
This is a tremendously well-written book that dragged me by the eyeballs into its world and then wouldn't let me leave until it was finished. I tell you, it's a good thing Higgins is working on the sequel because I NEED to know how this ends.
It struck me as a novel of "What if..." What if the world unfolded in a slightly different way? What if space creatures fell crashing to the earth hundreds of years ago. How would people interpret it? What if scientific discoveries came in a different order? What if folk mysteries had extraordinary power?
As the other reviews reveal, the location of this novel is a variation on Russia and it is filled with references to Russian and Slavic mythology.
I can't wait until the third book in the series comes out. The end of the second novel is a real cliff-hanger.
Fantastic versions of Soviet Russia are not common--though not as rare as some reviewers of this novel believe--but the only one I can think of offhand that uses Russian folklore *and* Soviet realpolitik like Wolfhound Century is Liz Williams' Eight Layers of Sky...and Wolfhound Century is far, far grimmer, colder, and strange than Eight Layers.
Higgins does for Soviet Russia (specifically Stalinist-Era Moscow) what China Mieville did for Victorian London: take a real place and time, give it a thin veneer of different history and names, and then inject subtle--or not-so-subtle--elements of the Weird. In Higgins' case, he brings in golems made of the stony flesh of fallen angels (who, apparently, rain down upon the earth like meteorites every now again, slain in some kind of vague, hinted-at cosmic war which has also split the world's moon into two fragments), giants (a gypsy-like minority population), earth, wind, and water elementals that arise naturally from the earth, and other fantastic elements that partake of both Siberian shamanist myth and Lovecraftian cosmic horror.
The greatest horror, the greatest weirdness in the novel, though, is the State of the Vlast itself, with its endless paranoia, conspiracies, murders, disappearances, and pogroms--and the just-as-violent revolutionaries fighting the system only in the interest of placing their own hands within the iron fist of the absolutist state. There is nothing fantastic about the Vlast, the machinations of the thousands of mutually-power-mad bureaucrats that fill the Lodka (the Vlast's Kremlin), or the moustachioed shadow cast by the virtually-silent, aloof, impersonal Novozhd. All of those details come right from 20th Century Russian history. Only the names are changed.
The story of policeman Vissarion Lom's reluctant drafting into Lodka politicking, of Maroussia Shaumian's even-more-reluctant association with the nameless revolutionary terrorists, and those terrorists' psychotic, angel-possessed leader is very quick-paced and engaging. The chapters are short and hurried, yet still take time to show both the world in which he characters live and the personal worlds within the characters themselves...but despite a great deal of detail and a relentless pace--or perhaps because of them--Wolfhound Century often reads like a rushed, half-finished draft than a whole work.
Pivotal scenes are often over within a single paragraph or two. Fantastic features that *should* be more deeply illustrated are only vaguely sketched while other, more workaday elements are embellished. The whole novel feels *too* fast-paced, and scenes which deserve more development are summarily executed (pun fully intended) in but a page or a single paragraph. Little is mentioned of daily life in Mirgorod, Capitol of the Vlast, and even less verbiage is given to describing the city itself. Or the mysterious, possibly endless taiga forest--a realm of fierce earth-magic feared by the Vlast--that lurks on the nation's western border. The Vlast's seemingly eternal war with the Archipelago is mentioned again and again but given virtually no elucidation.
I'm certain Higgins will develop all of these elements further in Wolfhound Century's successor volumes, but their absence in this, the series' flagship, leaves the book feeling hurried and half-baked. But is still a *great* read that sets the scene for what will hopefully be an epic battle between the magics of earth and water and life and the alien horrors falling from the skies, and between the vanishingly-small decency of common people and the ruthless hubris of the self-proclaimed rulers of man.