E.E. Knight, |
Vampire Earth #1:
The Way of the Wolf
(iPublish, 2001; Roc, 2003)
E. E. Knight's Way of the Wolf: Book One of The Vampire Earth is one of the most impressive debut novels I have ever read. I'm not sure why the author uses a pen name; if I had written a novel this original and absorbing, I would want my real name plastered across it in gigantic letters. Roc has released the book in its science fiction line, but the story strikes me as dark fantasy with militaristic overtones.
Proudly drawing on the work of many great authors of the past -- men such as Robert Howard, C.S. Forester and Louis L'Amour -- Knight creates a wholly original world that lives and breathes in the imagination of the reader. Readers should not see the reference to vampires in the title and simply dismiss this book as "yet another vampire novel." The vampires in command of Earth in the year 2065 are like no vampires you have ever encountered, and they do not even take an active part in the proceedings recorded in this first volume of a truly noteworthy new series.
Way of the Wolf introduces us to David Valentine, a young lieutenant in the Southern Command, an extraordinarily human and likeable hero in a post-apocalyptic world. The mythology Knight constructs for this series is rather complex, but basically the earth is, in 2065, under the control of vicious minions from the planet Kur. Long before civilization was borne on the planet, a race of pre-Entities discovered the means for traveling between worlds, arriving on Earth but dying out before the dawn of human history. Another race eventually discovered the secrets of the Interworld Tree, and creatures from the planet Kur invaded and took over the Earth after discovering they could essentially live forever by feeding on the auras of other living creatures (namely, human beings). Lifeweavers have long opposed the Kurians, but they exist on Earth in numbers insufficient to challenge the Kurian New World Order directly. Their knowledge is passed on to human heroes such as the Wolves, however -- men and women who patrol the boundaries of humanity's threatened refuge in the middle of what used to be America.
The Kurians have created the ever-dangerous Grogs to help enforce their rule, and some humans (Quislings) have chosen to serve the New World Order rather than perish. It is the Reapers, however, who pose the greatest threat to mankind. Reapers are brutish vampiric creatures able to detect and hunt down human beings; they feed on the blood of their victims while also serving as the conduit for their Overlords' absorption of human auras.
This book basically describes David's life from the time in which his family is killed up until his first year of service in the Wolves. We follow his career from his induction into the order through a number of scouting missions, mourn alongside him the terrible loss of several good comrades, and marvel at his ingenuity, instinct for self-preservation and innovative offensive skills in a number of deadly situations. Eventually, fate leads him to a farm in a Kurian-controlled zone, and here he experiences "normal" life to a degree he has not known since the time before his parents' deaths. Love now enters the mix alongside bravery, duty and honor, making this an even more poignantly human tale. All of this leads up to a riveting conclusion, one that satisfies the reader while setting the stage for what is to come next in the series. I can't wait to rejoin David Valentine in the forthcoming second volume of The Vampire Earth.