EE Knight postulates a grim future in his debut novel, The Way of the Wolf. The reader is introduced to a world over-run by creatures out of our most ancient nightmares and darkest legends, with humanity fighting for survival, not only against these monsters, but some of his or her fellow men and women. How did Earth become so desolate and nightmarish? Learning this is part of the fun in reading any opening novel in a multi-volume saga, and most importantly, part of the fun of this book. Having said this, Knight lays out a rather plausible world in the opening novel of The Vampire Earth. Initially self published through iPublish.com then picked up by the fine folks at Roc/Penguin Putnam, this book really does defy singular genre-fication. There is a mix of genres and elements in this world: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, suspense, adventure fiction, apocalyptic fiction, and produces something his own. He dredges up dark terrors that have haunted mankind for countless years, through legend and myth, and postulates those legends as reality. In this world, the vampires are real, they have been on this world much longer than anybody could have guessed, and worst of all, they are more powerful than most tales and legends would ever lend credence. While there are indeed many elements in the mix, Knight avoids clutter and presents the story as an experienced writer comfortable in his craft.
Humanity’s best chance in regaining Earth from these vampire lords are the three primary military branches that have been organized, the Wolves, the Cats and the Bears. The protagonist, Lieutenant David Valentine, a soldier in the guerilla army of the Wolves struggles to redeem both himself and Humanity, in his battles against the demonic hordes created by the vampires, and just as often, against those humans who have allied with the vampires. In David, Knight has created character we can believe in and with whom we can identify. Throughout David’s journey across a scarred America, we learn more about the origins of the vampires, and just how deep their history has been intertwined with humanity’s.
Great characters need believable and sympathetic supporting characters in order to make their tale enjoyable. Again, Knight has done a fine job, David’s fellow Wolves, the Cats and Bears he meets along the way as well as those human strongholds he settles in, albeit briefly, are peopled with genuine characters. Perhaps the darkest aspect of Knight’s dark future, even more than the vampires, are the people who have turned their backs against humanity, greedily allying with the vampires. They are so believable because many of us have come across people like this in our lives, forsaking their brothers and sisters in humanity, for their own selfish gains.
Never in reading The Way of the Wolf did I feel barraged with details, slogging through info dump after info dump. In doing this, not only has Knight avoided what many seasoned writers fail to avoid, but he succeeds in spades. The novel works very cinematically, or rather episodically, as if the this book will hit screens one day, as each chapter begins with a paragraph or two of background introduction. This gives an epic feel to the novel and allows the reader to more than simply read the novel, it allows the reader to experience the novel and this dark future Earth. Each chapter is paced very well, with the proper amount of action and characterization to keep the story moving, and more importantly, to keep the pages turning. Perhaps the only fault is a recurring sense of predictability.
In The Way of the Wolf, E.E. Knight has succeeded with high marks on many levels. The world building and details are just right – that is, Knight does not burden the story with too many details at once. The mark of a great storyteller is his or her ability to convey a good portion of their fictional world thought those who see the world the best, its characters, and again, Knight has done a commendable job in this. While there are parts of the novel where the world comes across in large amounts, it is not just a dump of information, it is conveyed seamlessly. With introductory paragraphs giving background to each “episode,” there is just the right amount of detail. We want to learn more and are not lulled into a detailed pastiche of boredom. And that is where Knight succeeds with the highest marks, I want to read more about this world and David and Humanity’s war against the vampires. Fortunately, I only have about a month until the next novel, The Choice of the Cat, is published.
Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
© 2003 Rob Bedford