Peter Higgins Wolfhound Century is a novel that is very hard describe in few words. So I'll say this about it; fans of weird fiction, alternate history, police procedurals and psychological thrillers would probably be equally entertained by it but there is more going on then meets the eye or is revealed in detail. Told from multiple jumpinng viewpoints Higgins reveals the layers of power deception manipulation and honor present in his alternate Russian landscape under the hand of a Stalinist police state. Wolfhound Century builds the stage and characters upon which the fate of which of two competing realities rely and ultimately the choice of which will exist. Peter built his world from bits of Slavic folklore and history creating a setting as foreign as any second world fantasy, making a urban fantasy that is like nothing else I've read recently.
The lanscape of this country is huge taking days to cross even by the fastest trains available with vast tracts of mysterious forests, hidden mythic people and many many secrets. In the background if this novel there is a long faught war with a foerign power, a war of attrition that is draining the nation dry. Vissarion Lom, a man tryimg to be a good cop, is called from his backwater posting to be assigned to flush out a terrorist and expose a traitor in the city of Mirgorod wher he will be a relative stranger. Lom is a chit in a much bigger game as are all the other players; the artists, the teacher, the daughter and the leaders and The manipulative spirits. Jumping between perspectives and creatures Peter unveils a story that shows that there are two realitis, two nows fighting for control as much as the people fight each other for power. One an ordered and confined world desired by the fallen stone angels that war in the heaves and the other a wild and chaotic world of the folklore and the woods where the rains can drown and the trees and winds speak. Peter writes with the wild weird creative flare of Mieville and Vandermeer as one blurb says of Wofhound but his prose is sparse rather then dense more accessable and allowing the reader to fill in the blanks.
As a political thriller this novel delivers on all promises. It is one of those novels where the chapters are short and make you think I'll read just one more late into the evening. In addition the the investigation and espionage plot there is unrest in the populace leading to protests which are harshly put down by the police with the cruel efficiency you would expect. It's characters are filled with an understandable paranoia of others and a wariness of their fellow citizens. There are clandestine meeting in cabarets and bars and several scenes of threats and torture. Wolfhound Century takes you to wonderful places too it is not all grim and dark and exposes some of the greatness some characters can rise to along with the depths to which some can fall.
The setting has elements that belong in a dystopian steampunk novel and others that could be in a pulpish urban fantasy. It is a hard book to classify and that is a great thing. The gloom of the rain filled streets and the atmosphere of paranoia is reminiscent of 1984, with characters packed and ready to run if the state ever showed at their door. Lom is a good cop in this game and that makes him a suspect and a liability since he's not corruptible. Everyone in this world is probably a pawn in someone's game and that includes some of the most powerful.
Because of the depth given to the characters and the wide range of the story and worldbuilding this is a speculative fiction novel that may make that jump to wider readership pulling in readers of Scandinavian thrillers and police proceduals set in the Soviet Union like Child 66 from Tom Rob Smith. With its often gloomy atmosphere and many rainy scenes I was often reminded of Blade Runner and noir crime novels I was such a big fan of in the nineties. I think this is something not to be missed for fans fantasy and thriller fiction of all type; I'm anxiously awaiting the second volume with the developments in the last few chapters I'm really wondering where it all will lead.
I received my ARC from the publisher but would happily have paid to read it.
Wolfhound Century is from Orbit Books (website here) and will be released Tuesday March 26th. Please go check out Peter Higgins' website here take a look around there is a very moody book trailer, character tidbits and other goodies to come. Last of all here is a link to a sample chapter via Orbit Books.