A Wolf To Guard The Door by Tyree Campbell (ebook review).

It’s the end of the world in ‘A Wolf To Guard The Door’ by Tyree Campbell. The nations of the Earth have fallen out with each other and the people have fallen out with their governments. International tensions combine with local ones. Food shortages, ethnic issues and long held frustrations have caused riots and disorder but whether beheaded by militant Islamists or disintegrated by Korean nukes, you’re just as dead. Most electronic devices are dead, too, thanks to the electro-magnetic pulse from the nukes.

A group of refugees led by a pilot get a plane out New England and head for France. His idea is that the Pyrenees might survive. The group are an assortment of characters who don’t get on well. Addison Temple is a spoilt rich man who thinks he can buy his way out of the apocalypse. Miller is a female ex-marine who’s able with guns and violence. Jameela is a strong black character. Nollaigh is a pregnant woman who struggles to fly the plane and deliver a baby in one very exciting scene. Nouh is a quiet Muslim taxi driver keeping a low profile. Young Derek is so immersed in his video game that he barely notices the end of the world. Later, they find a wolf cub to give the book its title.

When this lot crash on a beach in France, they are saved by a chap called Blake who was heading for the Atlantic coast of to drown at his wife’s favourite spot. She’s dead and he can’t live without her. Blake sees the plane come down and by the time he’s helped save the passengers suicide is forgotten. He has responsibilities now. With supplies short, bands of roaming outlaws are hijacking anything worthwhile and shooting the owners, so it’s a dangerous world.

Meanwhile, Italian journalist Cosimo Bruni travels west, also heading for the Pyrenees. He reported on the Basque resistance movement and made friends. En route, he falls in with a nice young lady called Palmina, whose from the former Yugoslavia, so she’s seen trouble. They get helped along by two old railwaymen still determined to do their job.

This isn’t a story about the war but rather about a few desperate people trying to survive the aftermath. Campbell sets up the plot nicely in the introductory chapters and makes you interested in the characters so you give a damn what happens. He uses the classic technique of leaving one character in peril at the end of a chapter, cutting to someone else, leaving them in peril and then cutting back to the first one. This keeps you turning the pages. The writing is straightforward. Clarity is more important than style but there are some nice observations about both individual characters and the human race. Some bitter ones, too.

There’s a lot of information subsumed in the text. I would guess that the author is familiar with the south of France though it’s possible he obtained the detailed geographical knowledge from google maps. He seems to know about guns. It was disheartening to read that old missiles can blow up in their silos, though the biter bit part of that is comforting in a way. It’s also worrying, if true, that the Russians often arm their missiles before they are launched so if theirs blow up in the silo, it’s a nuclear accident which is even worse, especially for Russians. This should put them off starting anything. The North Koreans, unfortunately, have shiny new missiles.

Campbell reminds me of Heinlein in many respects. Emotion is conveyed effectively with understatement, as in ‘Starman Jones’ where the grizzled guru turns to face certain death. Alongside a great respect for competence, there’s anger at useless people who contribute nothing to society. Like Heinlein, he’s not afraid to tackle the genuine issues between different races and creeds while simultaneously showing that there is good and bad in all creeds and colours. This novel has a noble Muslim, two able black people and a rotten, rich white scoundrel. Campbell is also a true romantic when it comes to love and a genuine feminist portraying the fairer sex as strong and able. In the end, like Heinlein, he believes or at least hopes that the best of humanity will prevail over the worst and we will survive.

A good book and I enjoyed it immensely. If you like that classic four time Hugo Award winner and Grand Master of Science Fiction Robert A. Heinlein, you’ll like this. A lot.

Eamonn Murphy

August 2017

(pub: Alban Lake Publishing, 2016. 304 page ebook. Price: $ 4.99 (US))

check out website: http://store.albanlake.com/product/wolf-to-guard-the-door-a/

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